This November, voters will decide whether dual-immersion language programs deserve a new chance in the state’s schools. Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, the executive director of Californians Together, a group that favors the ballot measure, said the waiver required for parents to enroll their children in bilingual programs had had a chilling effect and that more parents would be inclined to have their children in bilingual programs if they were more widely available.
Under a new reformed school-funding formula , Prop 58 could encourage schools to invest in new bilingual programs based on proven methods, and crucially, to expand the bilingual teacher workforce, which withered after Proposition 227 Education authorities are meanwhile promoting bilingualism as a formal credential by issuing a seal of biliteracy” to students who pass a dual-language exam, a certification that 23 states have also adopted for their school systems.
Ellen Bialystok’s research, for example, shows that bilingual adults, as they get older, stay sharper for longer than monolingual adults do. The effect is about four years’ difference on average, which can make a considerable difference to quality of life in retirement.
Although only 30 percent of the LEP students in California were enrolled in bilingual education programs at the time (the other 70 percent were in all-English programs), bilingual education was identified as the cause of academic failure on the part of Hispanic students (many of whom were monolingual in English), and the public voted to prohibit bilingual education.
This trend of decreasing LEP student counts as one goes up the grade levels, documented in the state’s tracking study of LEP student status over time, occurs in large part because LEP students tend to be transitioned out of bilingual programs after an average of three years or less.