Initiative to Restore Affirmative Action to Appear on CA Ballot; One GOP Senator Voted Aye

AP featured image
Pamela Yuen, with the American Association of University Women, holds a sign in favor of affirmative action outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, as the court hears oral arguments in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin affirmative action case. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)


California’s Democrat supermajority never lets a crisis go to waste, and the societal upheaval following the death of George Floyd is no exception. They’ve seized the moment to get enough votes to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot which would “legalize affirmative action.”

Affirmative action ended in California in 1996 after voters passed Prop 209, which:

“[A]dded a section to the California Constitution’s Declaration of Rights that prohibited the state from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, and public contracting.”

Proposition 209 passed with 55 percent of the vote. Since then Democrats have repeatedly tried to undo the will of the voters and re-institute codified discrimination.

ACA5, sponsored by Asm. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), was filed in January 2019 but sat for more than a year before being heard in committee in March, 2020. It was taken up again when the legislature returned from coronavirus shutdowns but gained massive momentum after Black Lives Matter protests/riots sprung up around the state in late May.

One big talking point used by the BLM movement is that “systemic racism” in the United States keeps minorities at a disadvantage, especially as it pertains to education. Many members of the California State Assembly and State Senate told their stories about how affirmative action helped them to gain support from their colleagues (which really wasn’t necessary since they were all going to vote for it anyway):


“Systematic racism didn’t stop because of [Prop.] 209,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), who noted she had benefited from affirmative action as a law student in the ‘90s. “And so what we’ve seen over these generations is the missed opportunity of so many kids in our communities who haven’t had the benefit that we all had.”

Without a doubt, far too many poor  and minority students aren’t given access to a quality education in public schools and miss opportunities; their opportunities are determined by the ZIP code in which they grow up.

Charter schools and open enrollment (in which a school district allows students to attend schools other than their neighborhood school, as long as there are open seats, without requiring special approval) are two ways poor and minority students in California can access better schools. Not surprisingly, Democrats are doing everything they can to eliminate charter schools and force students to attend their neighborhood schools (because shorter commutes = less pollution).

But ACA 5 does nothing to address this, because it doesn’t apply to K-12 education. Still, the California Teachers Association supported efforts to have it placed on the ballot and cheered its approval.


Why? Well, the return of affirmative action takes some of the heat off schools that fail to prepare their students to thrive in post-high school education or the workforce. If anything, ACA 5 perpetuates inequities in California’s K-12 education structure because these lawmakers believe they’ve “done something” to “fight systemic racism” and are less inclined to enact meaningful change.

Here’s an example. The same day ACA 5 passed the Senate, one of the Assembly co-sponsors tweeted this:

According to the CalMatters article, the girls in the photo attend school in the Oxnard Union School District in Ventura County, where a staggering 60 percent of the schools are ranked as below average. Nothing in ACA 5 will help them be prepared to succeed in college, and the same people who voted for ACA 5 voted to prevent school choice reforms that might help prepare them.

If these girls happened to attend a charter school in their area, their parents knowing that the public schools offered a less-than-stellar option, well, they’d be screwed by another bill currently on third reading in the Senate, where it will undoubtedly pass and then head to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature.


Most of the handful of Republicans in the California State Senate voted against ACA 5, correctly stating that it’s discriminatory:

“The problem with ACA 5 is that it takes the position that we must fight discrimination with more discrimination,” state Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) said. “Preferences for any purpose are anathema to the very process of democracy.”

And it’s racist and sexist:

Irvine Republican Assemblyman Steven Choi said that “giving special or preferential treatment to someone based on their race is racism itself, or on their sex is sexism.”

And making the point that if the point is ending racial discrimination, it’s woefully incomplete:

Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) argued ACA 5 would not end racial discrimination in California’s education system, insisting that ineffective teachers in low-income communities are kept there by tenure rules that are demanded by teachers unions.

Senate Democrats had the necessary votes to pass ACA 5 and place it on the ballot, but still one Republican, Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita), voted yes. Wilk is in a tough re-election battle; news recently broke that his challenger, a political newcomer, is beating him in the fundraising tally, and his district is one of the more racially diverse districts in the state. Wilk’s pandering and failure to stand up for what he supposedly believes in, though, will cost him dearly among the base he must keep energized. A true leader would have existing relationships with the minority groups in their district and be able to explain that he believes the best way to help minority students is to focus on getting rid of ineffective teachers and funding disparities. If that’s what he believed.


A heated battle over the initiative is expected, adding one more divisive layer to this year’s campaigns.


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