SACRAMENTO, Calif. – One in four public-school students in California is an English learner, and now programs to help them become more fluent will receive funding to the tune of $10 million.
The Newsom administration has agreed to add those funds to the current budget – and lawmakers will then hold until next year a bill that would fund bilingual programs going forward.
Efrain Mercado, who is part of the state’s Dual Instruction Transition Team and is director of education for the nonprofit Children Now, said the money would be used to implement Prop 58, the Global Education Initiative, which was a reversal of the Prop 227 English-only approach from the 1990s.
“We used to think that students had to have English-only instruction in their main classrooms and then they would be pulled out for special sheltered classes,” Mercado said. “Today, it’s much more integrated.”
There are 1.4 million English learners in the Golden State public school system. California students speak more than 60 native languages, and 60% of children younger than age five were born into homes where English is a second language.
Mercado said in the 1980s and 1990s, the English as a Second Language programs made students feel like their first language was devalued, whereas the current curriculum celebrates diversity.
“Now it’s respecting that home language; having that home language be an asset as opposed to a detriment, use that as a bridge to learning English,” he explained.
Mercado said he hopes the program will improve the graduation rate for English learners, which stands at just under 71%, compared with 85.1% in the general student population.