A new bill introduced in Sacramento this week, aims to overturn a 1998 proposition that made bilingual education illegal, but is widely ignored. Called the “Multilingual Education for a 21st Century Economy Act,” SB1174 calls for its own referendum, on the November 2016 ballot, to repeal prohibitions on languages used in instruction from Prop 227.
Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach/Huntington Park) introduced the bill.
Prop 227 requires all instruction in public schools to be conducted in English. Lara said in a statement that after that, “the number of elementary age students enrolled in some form of multilingual program sharply declined from 39 percent in 1997 to 13 percent in 2001.”
But dual language immersion schools have proliferated across California in the last decade. In 2013, more than 400 California schools reported offering bi-lingual programs. That's because there's a big loophole in Prop 227: parents can request a waiver allowing their children to participate in a "different program choice." Dual language immersion qualifies as one of these choices.
Using electrode caps and MRI’s to study brain activity, researchers have found children can become fluent in a second language if exposed consistently to it from an young age.
Neuroscientists and linguists generally agree that infants are “genetically programmed" to acquire languages, according to Loyola University professor, Magaly Lavadenz.