Departmental Honors Project Title

The Controversial Passage of Proposition 227

Date of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Type

Honors Project

School

College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Nurith Zmora

Abstract

When Proposition 227 passed in 1998, it essentially ended a thirty-year program of bilingual education in California of students with limited English proficiency, and replaced it with a controversial, year-long, intensive English-immersion program. Paying close attention to how each side of the debate was framed in televised programming and local newspapers, this paper examines why such a controversial law was able to pass by popular ballot. After researching the popular opinions of the previous program of bilingual education as well as the narrative of the state concerning how it views its immigrant populations, with the children of Latin American immigrants most heavily affected by the new law, this paper seeks to put the passage of Proposition 227 into perspective. When the initiative was proposed, it appeared to present a simple and concrete solution to a complex problem that had been brought to the attention of many Californians. Despite its strong political opposition both at the state and federal levels, without any concrete alternative solutions, the California voting public chose to put their faith in an untested solution. This suggests that voters in California are willing to take a chance with a controversial proposition rather than wait for legislative reform when it comes to an issue as important as the education of 1.4 million students. With California often being viewed as the up and coming trend setter in the United States when it comes to passing new laws, it becomes important to understand what is influencing voters within the state and how the sudden publicization of long-term issues can influence voters into passing questionable policies.

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