SACRAMENTO (KCBS) — A challenge to California’s ban on bilingual education in public schools took a step forward Tuesday after the state Senate approved a measure aimed at overturning key sections of the law.

The state’s voters approved Proposition 227, which required that instruction in public schools be conducted in English, 16 years ago and it has been a source of heated debate ever since.

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State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) authored a bill that would put a ballot measure before voters in November 2016 to overturn key portions of Proposition 227.

“The research is clear that students in bilingual, multilingual programs outperform their peers in the long run,” Lara said.

“This bill gives control to the schools, gives control back to the experts who know clearly understand the importance of insuring that our kids learn multiple languages,” Lara said.

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Critics argue that any change could worsen the state’s high school dropout rate.

Republican state Sen. Jim Nielsen, of Gerber, said that bilingual education is not in the best interest of many students doing more harm than good.

“Keeping them in that dominant language, without really learning English, I argue, handicaps them—not helps them,” Nielsen said.

“I argue that you’re putting your children out functionally illiterate in two languages.”

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The proposal next goes to the state Assembly.