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California will bring back bilingual education as Proposition 58 cruises to victory

 ("Yes on Prop 58" campaign)
("Yes on Prop 58" campaign)

Public schools in California will have more power to develop their own bilingual and multilingual programs after voters on Tuesday approved a measure repealing English-only instruction across the state.

With nearly 21% of 24,849 precincts reporting, Proposition 58 appeared to coast to victory, with 73% support among voters. Twenty-seven percent of voters sought to defeat it.

Proposition 58, the product of 2014 legislation written by Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), overhauls key parts of a 1998 law that requires students to take classes taught only English, unless parents sign a waiver requesting otherwise.

But it preserves a portion of the statute mandating that all students become proficient in English, no matter what program they choose.

Supporters of the measure lauded its approval, saying the bureaucratic red tape around multilingual education is harmful to students in a global economy, where the most sought-after employees speak more than one language.

But opponents of the measure, most notably Silicon Valley multimillionaire Ron Unz, who wrote the original English-only Proposition 227, have said the new law would be a return to the problems of the past, when bilingual programs were failing to teach Spanish-speaking students English.

The vote comes as less than 5% of California public schools now offer multilingual programs, though there are now 1.4 million English learners — about 80% of whom speak only Spanish.

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