SB 1174 Talking Points

California Senate Bill SB 1174 Talking Points

Jill Kerper Mora

Arguments in Support of SB 1174

The voters of California passed Proposition 227 in 1998 in a time of high levels of immigration and concerns about the economic, social, cultural and linguistic. The “English for the Children” campaign led voters to believe that restrictions on bilingual education would lead to more and faster learning of English among immigrant students in the public schools. This was based on the false belief that bilingual instruction delays or slows English language learning, a belief that is soundly discredited by credible and objective education research.

California Senator Ricardo Lara has proposed SB 1174, which if passed will place an initiative on the ballot in November 2014 to rescind the education law put in place by Proposition 227 (P-227). Passing this popular initiative will enable school districts to respond to the high demand for programs to enable California’s students to be prepared with the multilingual and multicultural skills they need to compete in the global marketplace. The California Legislature recognized the importance of biliteracy through the Seal of Biliteracy Program through passage of Assembly Bill 815 (Brownley) in January 2012. Rescinding P-227 will remove obstacles and barriers to full and effective implementation of dual language programs. Below are five reasons to support SB 1174.

  • Proposition 227 is obsolete.
  • P-227’s program requirements do not reflect the “state of the art” in effective programs for English Learners.
  • P-227’s “30 days in English” requirement is counter-productive and detrimental to effective educational program implementation.
  • P-227’s parental waiver requirements are discriminatory.
  • P-227’s teacher liability lawsuit provision discourages future bilingual teachers from entering the teaching profession.

What Proposition 227 Says: The “Whereas” Statements

English is the national public language of USA and the “language of economic opportunity.” TRUE

Immigrant parents are eager for their children to acquire English to participate in the “American Dream of economic and social advancement.” TRUE

California has wasted financial resources on “experimental language programs” that have caused a high drop-out rate and low English literacy levels of many immigrants. FALSE

Children can easily acquire full fluency if they are “heavily exposed to that language in the classroom at an early age” FALSE

All children “shall be taught English as rapidly and effectively as possible.” TRUE, but …

Reason #1 Proposition 227 is obsolete.

The “whereas” statements in the law do not reflect current thinking about multilingualism or education programs for English Language Learners.

Biliteracy programs are not “experimental.” Research shows that they are the most effective programs for learning language and academic content.

Biliteracy programs are not a waste of resources. They are the most efficient use of resources because they enhance language, literacy and content learning AND produce students with multilingual and cross-cultural skills for the global marketplace.

Research supports the finding that students who develop and maintain both their home or heritage language are more successful in school and much less likely to drop out.

P-227 Defines “English Language Education”

“English learner” is “currently unable to perform ordinary classroom work in English”

“Sheltered English immersion” or “structured English immersion” (SEI ) means an English language acquisition process for young children in which nearly all classroom instruction is in English but with the curriculum and presentation designed for children who are learning the language.”

EL placed in “English language classrooms” for SEI during a “temporary transition period not normally intended to exceed one year” and then placed in mainstream classrooms when they acquire “a good working knowledge of English”

Local schools are “encouraged” to place EL with a “same degree of English fluency” and from different native-language groups in SEI classrooms using multi-grade level grouping.

Reason #2 P-227’s program requirements do not reflect the “state of the art” in effective programs for English Learners.

Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) can be effective if other factors that support language, literacy and content development are in place, but…

Research shows that programs that develop students’ biliteracy and bilingualism are the most effective programs for their long-term academic success and for closing the achievement gap.

Schools should not be locked into artificial timelines or teaching approaches as a matter of law that are not consistent with best practices and the academic needs of their students.

Parental Exception Waivers

Parents may waive the SEI requirement with “prior written informed consent” after their child has been enrolled in SEI for 30 days.

Parents must visit the school personally to be provided a full description of educational materials and program choices.

Waivers will be granted only if it is the “informed belief of the school principal and educational staff” that an alternative program is “better suited to the child’s rapid acquisition of basic English skills” or if the child has “special needs” or already speaks English.

Reason #3 P-227’s “30 days in English” requirement is counter-productive and detrimental to effective educational program implementation.

To comply with the law, dual language programs must delay instruction in the target language for one full month!

This requirement disrupts full and effective program implementation, to the detriment of all students enrolled in the program.

The “30 days in English” requirement was designed to influence the program choices of immigrant parents and is discriminatory, coercive and unnecessary. 

Bilingual Education under Parental Exception Waivers

Under waivers, children may be taught through “bilingual education techniques or other generally recognized educational methodologies permitted by law.”

Schools MUST provide bilingual education in a school where 20 pupils or more of a given grade level receive a waiver or allowed to transfer to a school that offers bilingual classes.

Reason #4 P-227’s parental waiver requirements are discriminatory.

Waiver requirement attempt to make administrators rather than parents the key decision-makers in their children’s education, but only certain parents…

P-227 was designed to put obstacles in the way of parents who speak a language other than English in the home to freely choose the best educational programs for their children.

P-227 sends the wrong message. The US Constitution grants students the right to “a meaningful and effective education” which if parents so choose, is a multilingual education. Certain parents should not be required to “waive” any rights that all parents and their children should freely enjoy in our public schools in California.

Teacher Liability Lawsuits Provision

Article 320 of P-227 allowed for parents to file personal liability lawsuits against teachers for attorney’s fees and “actual damages” for alleged violations of P-227’s provisions. In August 2001 Article 320 was upheld in a 2-1 decision in the case of California Teachers Association et al vs. State Board of Education. 

Reason #5 The teacher liability lawsuit provision discourages future bilingual teachers from entering the teaching profession.

The teacher lawsuit provision of P-227 was used three times to convene grand juries to harass school districts into abandoning bilingual program models that were academically effective and popular with parents.

This provision discourages talented bilingual individuals from entering the teaching profession, sending the wrong message that their multilingual skills are a liability rather than an asset in educating all California’s students.

Voters are not qualified to determine the type or amount of use of languages in instruction that are in students’ best interests in advancing their language learning and long-term academic achievement.

Additional Resources About P-227

Click here for an analysis of the bilingual education controversy and the politics and pedagogy of the anti-bilingual education initiatives.

Click here for an analysis of the analysis of the philosophical assumptions behind English-only policies versus the theoretical and philosophical basis for bilingual education.

Click here for more about the history of Proposition 227 and a discussion of how Proposition 227 is failed public policy.

Click here for an analysis of the civil rights issues posed by anti-bilingual education laws.

For an analysis of the myths and misunderstandings about bilingual education behind the anti-bilingual education initiatives, see Mora, J.K., (2009). From the ballot box to the classroom. Educational Leadership 66 (7), 14-19.