[lg policy] Californians Favor English Plus Another Language

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Aug 26 10:56:35 EDT 2016

Californians Favor English Plus Another Language
by admin34 | August 25th, 2016
<http://languagemagazine.com/?p=125883#> 8

[image: Maroon_Tee-Shirt]California voters both prioritize the learning of
English and recognize the value of speaking more than one language,
according to a new study of voter attitudes about bilingual education by
the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) at the University of
California, Berkeley.

The study used an online poll to ask a series of questions about language
policy and bilingual education, which which will once again be on the
California ballot this fall.

The poll found that a plurality of California voters prefers an educational
program in which English learner students transition to English, while
another large portion of voters prefers immediate English immersion. Few
voters support allowing English learner students to take some classes in
their native languages all the way through high school.

When asked another question about whether the state should retain or repeal
its current requirement that most English learner students have a maximum
of one year of intensive English instruction before transitioning into
mainstream English-only classes, most respondents favored retaining the
current English immersion requirement, which was implemented by Proposition
227 in 1998.

The poll used online English-language questionnaires to survey respondents
from June 29 to July 18. All respondents were registered California voters,
and the responses were then weighted to reflect the statewide distribution
of the California population by gender, race/ethnicity, education and age.


Issues of language policy and bilingual education have a long electoral
history in California. In 1986, California voters passed an initiative
making English the state’s official language, an action that had symbolic
rather than practical meaning. Then in 1998, Californians voted for
Proposition 227, a measure that favored English immersion over other modes
of bilingual education. The core of Proposition 227 required that most
“English learner” students “be educated through sheltered English immersion
during a temporary transition period not normally intended to exceed one
year,” after which they would be transferred to “English language
mainstream classrooms.”

The state’s demographic and political makeup have changed since 1998, and
in 2014 the legislature passed and Gov. Brown signed Senate Bill 1174,
which refers to the ballot a measure that would change bilingual education
law. That proposal will appear on the November ballot as Proposition 58.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) analysis of Proposition 58 notes
that the measure “repeals key provisions of Proposition 227” and adds new
provisions of law generally broadening the ability of schools to offer
bilingual programs. If Proposition 58 were to pass, according to the LAO
analysis, “schools would no longer be required to teach English learners in
English-only programs” and could instead “teach their English learners
using a variety of programs, including bilingual programs.”

*Current study*

The IGS poll first asked a standard general question about bilingual
education which assessed support for three main approaches: English
immersion “right from the start,” transition to English “for a transitional
period of several years,” and dual-language classes “all the way through
high school in order to maintain their native language.” The study terms
these three options, respectively, “English only,” “transition” and
“maintenance.” This question showed that a plurality of 43.7% of
respondents prefers a transitional program,37.2% prefer an English only
approach, and only14.2% support allowing dual-language programs all the way
through high school. Compared to other ethnic groups, white respondents
were clearly more supportive of English only. Republicans were also far
more supportive than Democrats of the English only option, while Democrats
were far more supportive of a maintenance program that would potentially
allow for dual-language programs throughout high school.

The poll also found strong support for the idea that it is important for
California students to learn more than one language. Almost two out of
three respondents (66.1%) agreed that children should learn a second
language, while only 17.4% disagreed. Interestingly, partisan differences
were relatively muted, with strong majorities of both parties and
independents agreeing that students should learn a second language.
Majority support also crossed all ethnic groups in the survey.

The poll also asked whether voters supported the repeal or retention of the
state’s current requirement that most English learner students be educated
in a sheltered English immersion program for up to one year, one of the key
provisions of Proposition 227 that would be repealed by Proposition 58.

Instead of using the ballot label and title and summary for Proposition 58,
which were not yet available when the questions were finalized, and which
make no reference to repealing provisions of Proposition 227, the IGS study
employed an experimental approach that examined whether opinions about the
repeal of the sheltered English immersion requirement varied in response to
opposing frames of the issue. The results, therefore, do not speak directly
to the distribution of opinion on Proposition 58 as it will be presented to
voters in the ballot label.

This question showed a strong preference among voters to retain the English
immersion requirement, which was phrased in the poll as “keep the law
(continue to require English-only education).” Almost two out of three
respondents (64.3%) favored retaining the voter-approved provision, though
Republicans (84.7%) were far stronger in their support of that position
than were Democrats (51.3%).

Among 18- to 24-year-olds, a minority of only 35.7% supported a retention
of the sheltered English immersion requirement, while a narrow majority of
50.5% favored overturning it. Support for retaining the Prop. 227 provision
increased steadily with age, and was highest (79.4%) among respondents who
were at least 65 years old. A majority of all ethnic groups supported the
retention of the limit, although the levels of that support varied from
just 51.7% among Latinos to 70.5% among whites, and generally reflected a
lower level of support for the Prop. 227 provision among ethnic minorities
than among whites.

The poll also included an experiment in which the precise wording of the
question was varied to test the effectiveness of various arguments on both
sides of the issue. Support for repeal of the sheltered English immersion
requirement was strongest when the question referenced the economic
benefits of speaking multiple languages in a globalized economy, although
this was offset to a large degree when the question also referenced an
anti-repeal argument emphasizing the economic value of English fluency.

For full results of the poll, go to the IGS website at igs.berkeley.edu.


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