With California residents just two months away from voting on Proposition 227–the “English for the Children” proposal that would virtually ban bilingual education statewide–the state Board of Education intensified the already highly-charged debate by giving its local school districts the freedom to eliminate bilingual education programs if they so choose.

The decision is discouraging to parties on both sides of Prop. 227. Supporters claim that the ruling does not go far enough to dismantle an ineffective system, and opponents of the initiative claim that the court has given districts a free hand to terminate even badly needed programs.

Although many of us (79 percent, according to a February Field Poll) would end such programs, we should still question whether this decision is in the best interest of the state’s 1.4 million limited-English-speaking schoolchildren.

“I think it just opens the door for more school districts to say, ‘I don’t have to do it, it’s no longer a mandate, I can ignore these principles,” said Lisa Lim, executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. “In San Francisco we’ll still have bilingual education, we have school board and superintendent who believes in it … but this is not a typical school district.”

It is unclear what impact the ruling will have on Proposition 227 and the Asian American vote, but with Asian Americans accounting for more than 12 percent of the state’s limited-English-speaking students, we must continue to closely monitor this debate.

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