Info on Amendment 31
With all the media attention that ballot measure 31 has been receiving lately, I wanted to bring to light several key points to consider when voting for or against this amendment. These points have nothing to do with being for or against bilingual education or wanting all children to learn English, but are concerns dealing with money, legal battles and local control.
First of all, this would be an amendment to our state constitution. What that means is that the members of the state governing bodies were unable to make a clear decision on the matter and therefore put it to a public vote. I for one am hesitant to vote “yes” for a measure that would change our state constitution. Especially one that if we later disagree with, would be extremely difficult to get removed.
Secondly, the measure itself brings up several areas of concern. Specifically the right of each district to have local control over their curriculum and school structure. If this measure passes it takes away the rights of each district to decide what will best meet the needs of their students and community. The decision-making power will then reside with the state and federal government. It will also set the precedent for future battles with other programs run under local control, such as Special Education, Gifted and Talented Programs, Sports, etc.
The measure requires that all students who are non-native English speakers receive one – and only one – year of intense English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction and then will be placed in a regular English-speaking classroom for the remainder of their education. That would mean that all of these students would be grouped into classrooms with ESL-certified teachers and taught for one year. Where will these teachers come from? There is already a shortage. Who will pay for their salaries and materials? Which teachers who are not ESL-certified will lose their jobs to make room for the new ones? The state budget is already at a deficit. Will taxes be hiked to cover the cost?
Finally, if 25 percent of the parents in a school district sign a waiver and write a 250-word essay in English explaining why they want their child to receive a bilingual education then the school district may have such a program. But, if a child whose parents placed them in a bilingual program fails at some point in their education (within ten years of entering the program) their parent may sue the teacher directly for the failure of their child and the teacher may lose their license for up to five years.
Why are we punishing teachers who are teaching a program that so many parents went to so much work to have in the first place? Are parents no longer accountable for the decisions they make on behalf of their children? What message does this send to our children? Do we not hold them accountable for their choices?
Basically, this measure has really very little to do with the pros and cons of bilingual education. In fact, it is just another way for the state and federal governments to gain more control. Please consider these facts when deciding your vote on ballot measure 31, because it really will affect all of us, not just our children.
Public School Teacher
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