Chacon-Moscone Bill of 1976

By 1976, in an era of expanding civil rights, it was the combined effect of federal legislation, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and state mandates that reformed educational policy-and ultimately benefited limited- and non-English-speaking children. Assemblyman Peter Chacón, recognized today as the father of bilingual education in California, and State Senator George Moscone joined forces to push for Assembly Bill 1329, the Chacón-Moscone Bilingual Bicultural Education Act.

The Chacón-Moscone bill called for flexible bilingual program alternatives that ranged from transitional bilingual education to full-maintenance bilingual programs. Chacón-Moscone recognized and clearly articulated that mastery of English was absolutely critical for limited- and non-English-speaking children to benefit from equal educational opportunity. Significantly, it also reiterated the notion that English only instruction was only one of several pedagogical approaches, but certainly not the only appropriate one for limited- and non-English-speaking children.

The Chacón-Moscone bill also required that California provide supplemental financial support to schools to implement these programs. The Chacón-Moscone bill mirrored the ideal programs suggested in the Lau Remedies. The legislation allowed for a broad range of flexibility in instructional programs to accommodate the range of diversity in public schools, recognizing the importance of the child’s level of education and accommodating the skills each child brought to their respective classrooms.

The following were among the instructional programs included:

Basic bilingual education programs, which built on students’ language skills, with daily instruction leading to English acquisition, including structured English language development and primary-language development with basic skills instruction in subject matter content until the transfer to English was made. The amount of English language instruction increased as the skills levels of English increased.

Bilingual-bicultural education programs, which provided instruction in two languages, one of which was English. The purpose was to achieve competence in both languages. This was achieved by providing daily instruction in English language development, including listening and speaking skills. Formal reading and writing skills in English were to be introduced as appropriate criteria were met.

Daily instruction also included primary-language development, reading instruction in the primary language, selected subjects taught in the primary language, and development of an understanding of the history and culture of the United States and California and the customs, cultures, and values of the pupils being taught.