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A Vote to Repel the Ban on Bilingual Public Schools in California

On November 8, 2016, Americans will choose who will be their president for the next four years. On the same day, Californian voters will also decide the future of dual-language education in their state.

In a sort of direct democracy, 17 propositions are being put to the vote in California this year. They include the abolishment of the death penalty (Proposition 62), the legalization of marijuana (Proposition 64), a two-dollar rise in taxes on packets of cigarettes (Proposition 56), a ban on plastic bags (Proposition 67), and the suspension of the ban on languages other than English being taught in public schools (Proposition 58).

Only private and charter schools currently offer dual-language programs in California. Bilingual education has been banned in Californian public schools since June 2, 1998, when Proposition 227 was accepted with 61.28% of the votes.

A government study carried out between 1996 and 1997 was behind this decision. Among the 5.6 million students in Californian public schools from kindergarten to high school, 25% were identified as having “Limited English Proficiency”, or “LEP”. This term is used to describe students who have difficulty reading, speaking, writing or understanding, but also for students whose native language is not English.

Proposition 227 obliged public schools to replace their dual-language programs – generally aimed at children of Hispanic immigrants – by a “predominantly English” education. Some schools decided to circumvent this decision by teaching 51% of their curriculum in English.

Voted on November 8, Proposition 58 is hoping to overturn Proposition 277 and give each school district the power to decide whether or not to allow dual-language programs in its schools.

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