Proposition 227 is on California's June 2nd Ballot. The title of the initiative is misleading: "English for the Children." It sounds as if it would improve children's education. In fact, If passed, Prop. 227 would require that, within 60 days, all California public schools stop all their programs, and institute an untested program. 227 would  outlaw existing language development and academic programs that work. 227 would throw California's schools into chaos.

OPPONENTS: There are over 200 opponents of Prop. 227. They include: The White House, the California PTA, civil rights and educational research organizations, and over 100 school districts and school boards.

THE SHORT OF 227:

* OUTLAWS existing successful language learning programs.
* MIXES 5-12 year-olds in the same class for 9 months to "learn English."

No academics.

* EXPECTS children to learn enough English in 9 months to succeed academically at grade level with no extra help.
* EXPOSES teachers personally to lawsuits for refusing to comply with 227.
* ELIMINATES local control of schools.
* APPROPRIATES $500m  from the General Education Fund for an experimental program.
* Has no built-in accountability, so when it fails, no one would be held responsible.
* Would be nearly impossible to overturn if passed.
 

THE LONG OF 227:

227 outlaws existing successful language learning programs. Bilingual education is not the only program that would disappear under 227. Programs teaching primarily in English would also end (e.g., ESL, English Language Development, Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English) because 227 states that all English learners must go into its one-size-fits-all
program. Deaf Education may also be affected because it's a form of bilingual education (American Sign Language/English).

Also, teachers, aides or volunteers in bilingual, ESL, ELD and other academic programs for English learners often use students' first languages to develop cognitively demanding concepts or to ensure comprehension of the English language curriculum. These are research-based ways of teaching English learners. Under 227, teachers would be sued personally if they used
a word of a foreign language in the classroom. Teachers couldn't use the best ways they know of educating students.

Teachers and administrators would be held personally liable if they refused to comply by speaking one word of a foreign language in the classroom. Teachers & districts would be required to purposely deliver a third-rate education -- to purposely contribute to educational inequities.

227 would place all English learners, regardless of age, into the same type of classroom. 5 year olds who should learn number concepts would be jumbled in with 12 year olds who should learn pre-algebra. The teacher would be charged with teaching these students English in 180 days without ever using students' first languages. 227 does not require that academics
be taught during that first school year in 227's program.

227 gives this approach a fictitious title: "Sheltered English Immersion." Sheltered English Immersion is not an existing strategy for teaching English learners. This title mixes two strategies. "Sheltered instruction in English" is used to teach academics to students who have some understanding of English. English Immersion is an approach that doesn't offer any support to children. It has been dubbed "submersion," "sink or swim." Submersion was outlawed in 1967 by then-Governor Reagan for its
failure to teach English learners. Submersion has been condemned by the Federal Government. Submersion, "sink or swim," is really what 227 would legalize.

After 180 days in this experimental "Sheltered English Immersion" class, students would be deemed proficient in academic English at their grade level, and they would be placed in a regular English-only classroom to sink or swim with no further support. Teachers would no longer need special training to teach these students. Only "a good working knowledge of
English" (Article 2, 306, b). So trained (previously credentialed) teachers couldn't use their skills to teach students well, and new teachers wouldn't need the special credentials that are necessary now to teach English learners.

In Addition, NO ONE can learn enough of a foreign language in 180 days to perform academically on par with peers who are native speakers. No research supports this 227 contention. English learners would not be the only ones to suffer in this environment. Since teachers could not use the best ways we have of teaching second language learners, they will be busy figuring out how to teach while managing the severe restrictions of 227.  Meanwhile, native-English speakers would have to compete with the English learners for the teachers' attention. Everyone would lose. And no one could be held accountable because the proposition does not discuss accountability.

Under 227 there would be no local control of schools. School boards, school districts and parents would be prohibited from providing programs tailored to their student populations.

Parental waivers from 227 are a sham. Article 3 (on parental exceptions) is there so 227 can survive a court challenge. But the probability of getting 20 kids in the same school and at the same grade level to satisfy all the conditions of the waiver are virtually nil. (This sounds confusing because it is -- just try reading Article 3).  227 appropriates $50m yearly for 10 years from the General Education Fund for "parents or other members of the community who PLEDGE to provide personal English language tutoring to California school children..."

(Article 4). This  money  is currently being used to provide services for all children through existing programs. It would be diverted for individuals who "pledge" to help, under this 227 program that does not yet exist. There is no accountability written into 227 to ensure that this money be well-spent. California is already #49 in per-pupil-spending. 227 would already cause a fiscal crisis by causing a loss of Federal funding that goes to states which provide research-based education for English
learners. Additional loss of $500m would be catastrophic for our schools and students.

227 would be nearly impossible to overturn. We would require 2/3 vote of each house and the Governor's signature in order to anul 227 (Article 8). Furthermore, 227 contains a "severability" clause (Article 6), which would require a court challenge to target each article one at a time. It would be a lengthy, expensive process: "If any part ... of this statute (is) found to be in conflict with federal law... or the California State Constitution, the statute shall be implemented to the maximum extent
that federal law (and State law)... permit. Any provision held invalid shall be severed from the remaining portions of this statute."

SOME MISCONCEPTIONS IN PRO-227 PROPAGANDA:

* "Children can learn academic English in 180 days".
Researchers world-wide agree that it takes "at least" 2 years for second language learners to perform at the same level as peers who are native speakers. Researchers world-wide agree that it could take 180 days for children to learn "playground English," yet they stress that this is very different from the knowledge that students need in order to manipulate difficult ideas at grade level in the 2nd language.

*California's English learners have failed in schools BECAUSE of bilingual education.
Only 30% of English learners are in bilingual programs in California. 70% receive their instruction in English only.

50% are in classrooms that tailor English academic instruction to English learners (e.g. English as a Second Language). 20% are in English submersion (227-style) classrooms.

Since the great majority of English learners are in English-only classrooms, bilingual education is clearly not the cause for these
students' educational difficulties.

* "Bilingual Education does not teach English." Bilingual education teaches English. -BI-lingual education, by definition,
entails the use of two languages to teach academic content. In the U.S., one of those languages is always English. There is exhaustive international research documenting the strengths of bilingual education for teaching second language learners. Furthermore, international research consistently finds that students who participate in academic learning in two
languages have higher academic achievement than students who learn academics in one language only. These findings have been replicated in the U.S., Canada, and in several European countries with children of different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. For more information see the NCBE and OBEMLA websites

(Q&A sections).

As you've probably guessed by now, I say VOTE NO ON 227 on June 2nd, and tell all your friends! It's too rigid, too confusing, and will likely wreak havoc on our children. But don't take my word for it.

EDUCATE YOURSELF, and at least read the fine print, asking yourself --Is this really what I want for OUR children?

If you think my description is an exaggeration, and would like to get the information from the horse's mouth, visit the official 227 web site, http://www.onenation.org. You will see that this description accurately summarizes 227. Be sure to visit one of the opposing web sites to have pro and con information.

For ways of contributing to the NO on 227 statewide campaign, to have your organization/corporation endorse the No on 227 campaign, or for a list of opponents, see the Citizens for an Educated America website: http://www.noonunz.org

For more information from researchers, visit
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/jwcrawford/, and
http://www.smartnation.org

Thanks for bearing with an outrageously long email, and remember to Vote NO on 227 on June 2nd!

M. Casimir
Ph.D. Student
Education in Language Literacy and Culture
University of California, Berkeley