Sunday, October 19, 2008

Oregon voters to choose future of state's bilingual education

On November 4, Oregon voters will have the opportunity to choose how non-native speakers are taught English in the state's public schools. Ballot Measure 58 would prohibit teaching non-English-speaking students in their native language for more than two years.

The measure is intended to ensure that non-English speakers learn English. Bill Sizemore, author of the measure, said he sought the referendum after learning from some teachers that English-language-learners were being kept in ESL programs longer than necessary as a way for the school to receive extra funds.

'They even had kids in ESL classes that spoke only English, but they were in ESL classes simply because their last name was Hernandez or Rodriguez,' Sizemore said.

Bilingual education was intended to prevent non-English speakers from falling behind in critical subjects by allowing them to be taught part of the time in their native language.

Under Measure 58, non-English-speakers would be placed in English-immersion classes for a limited amount of time before being taught only in English. The State Legislature would determine what constitutes English immersion. The Legislature also would have to determine whether the measure complies with federal law.

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