Senator Hernandez Advances Constitutional Amendment for Equal Opportunity in Education

August 20, 2013

Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA --- On a 4-2 vote, the Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments voted today to support a constitutional amendment by State Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez, O.D. that would lift California’s ban on the consideration of race in the recruitment, admission, and retention of college students.

Senator Hernandez’ proposed amendment, SCA 5, would repeal prohibitions on the consideration of race in California’s public institutions of higher education, including the University of California campuses (UC), California State Universities (CSU) and California Community Colleges.  These are prohibitions that have been in place since voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996, which amended the California constitution to ban affirmative action programs throughout the state. 

“Proponents of Prop. 209 argued that we could address longstanding racial disparities in our education system by ignoring race, but the statistics prove otherwise,” added Hernandez, “You cannot address inequality by refusing to acknowledge it.”

Prop. 209 eliminated programs at public universities and colleges that were designed to recruit, retain, provide scholarships, and give consideration to students that come from groups that are underrepresented and historically discriminated against.  As a result, there has been a precipitous drop in the percentage of Latino, African American, and Native American students at California public universities, despite the fact that those same groups have seen steady increases in their percentages of college-eligible high school graduates. 
“We have nearly 20 years of history showing our campuses have become less diverse, and qualified high school graduates are being overlooked and ignored as a result of the failed experiment that is Prop. 209” said Hernandez, “SCA 5 will give voters the opportunity to have a new discussion about how we best ensure our colleges and universities reflect the diversity of our state.”

In June, a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, upheld the constitutionality of programs that take race into consideration at public universities.  If approved by two-thirds of both the California Assembly and Senate, SCA 5 would then be put before the voters in a statewide election.

“This is about the long-term benefits college degrees bring to students and their families.  It’s about graduating the well-trained, diverse workforce we need to compete in a global economy” remarked Hernandez, “And most importantly, it’s about equal opportunity for California’s young people.”