SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A Southern California lawmaker visited a San Francisco elementary school Wednesday to press his initiative to overturn a law requiring all California public school classes to be taught in English.
State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) was at West Portal Elementary Wednesday morning to announce legislation that would ask voters to overturn Propostion 227, a 1998 initiative that required English-only public classes.
West Portal in the city’s Parkside District is one of the city’s most sought-after public elementary schools, with a Chinese-immersion program that produces students who master both Chinese and English.
Despite the passage of Prop 227, bilingual education is still possible at state public schools if the parents of 20 students of a given grade at a school request their children be placed in bilingual class, the district is required to offer it.
Prop 227 did have the effect of eliminating most bilingual classes in the state and shortened the time students with limited English-proficiency stayed in special classes.
Lara’s legislation, SB1174, would place an initiative on the November 2016 ballot to repeal Prop. 227.
“In an increasingly interconnected global economy, we have to prepare our students for a future in which their success depends not only on an ability to understand diverse perspectives and cultures, but also on an ability to communicate in different languages,” Lara said in February after announcing his proposal.
Lara’s office said the percentage of elementary school-age students enrolled in multilingual programs declined from 39 percent in 1997 — the year before the ballot measure — to 13 percent in 2001.
Studies have shown that children taught in their home language in their early years have better academic achievement that those who receive English-only instruction, Lara’s office said.