Proposition 227 Educators Begin to Make Plans for Changes Mandated by Voters

Summer vacation ended early for California educators this week, and the race is on to modify instruction models to accommodate Proposition 227. The ballot measure, passed by 61 percent of the voters in June, places strict limits on bilingual education. Hopes that the mandate would be delayed were dashed when U.S. District Court Judge Charles Legge in San Francisco ruled there is no constitutional right to a bilingual education and refused to bar implementation pending resolution of legal challenges.

The fight over Proposition 227 is not over. Some districts are considering further lawsuits. Other districts are exploring ways of circumventing the intent of the law. That’s lawyer work. In the meantime, school boards, principals and teachers have six weeks to figure out how they will teach non-English speaking students when school doors open Aug. 31.

Under the proposition, schools, with few exceptions, can’t teach in any language but English. Instead of bilingual instruction, intensive, one-year English immersion classes will be required for students who do not speak the language.

Sounds simple, but there are many challenges. Teachers need training. Schools need books for English learners. Teaching aides will be needed for the many different non-English languages spoken by California children.

Santa Rosa’s new superintendent, Dale Vigil, is meeting with key administrators this morning to begin planning the educational makeover. Vigil, on the job here just a few days, comes to Santa Rosa from a San Diego district steeped with multiple models of bilingual instruction that Vigil believes in. Vigil said Santa Rosa will develop a plan that meets the intent of Proposition 227.

Vigil said the measure provides some limited instruction in languages other than English. The trick is to find a formula in which English is the dominant language — but not at the expense of all other languages.

“There are ways where two languages can work very effectively together to help students learn English and still respect their literacy in their primary languages,” Vigil said. Sounds like bilingual ed.

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