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Washington, DC (April 30, 2020) – A coalition of national organizations led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is urging the state of California to create equal opportunity in its institutions of higher education and its workforce by repealing California’s Proposition 209. The coalition sent a letter to the California Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement and key state legislators in support of ACA 5, which will create equal opportunities for all Californians and fight discrimination and bias against women and people of color.

“The repeal of Proposition 209 is long overdue,” said David Hinojosa, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “With ACA 5, California has a great opportunity to turn the tide and reopen the door to higher education and economic prosperity for people of color.”

The letter highlights that this legislation is important not just for the future of California, but our nation as a whole. After the disastrous Proposition 209 was enacted in California in 1996, several states followed suit with their own efforts to rescind affirmative action initiatives, which led to significant decreases in diversity in American workplaces and on college campuses across the country. In the letter, organizations urge the California Assembly to reinstate the lawful use of affirmative action so that women and people of color can achieve their dreams, lead the state of California and move our country forward like all other Americans.

“The proponents of reverse discrimination who supported Proposition 209 25 years ago sought to limit affirmative action as a necessary remedial and necessary government policy needed to address the long-standing systemic discriminatory practices in public employment, contracting, and particularly in higher education,” said Jose Perez, deputy general counsel at LatinoJustice.” LatinoJustice PRLDEF is pleased to join with our fellow civil rights colleagues in supporting ACA 5 which seeks to honor the actual intent and spirit of our Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and begin a new era of inclusion.”

The letter outlines the critical importance of diversity in higher education admissions and enrollment. Higher education has long been regarded as the doorway to social and economic mobility. But for too long in our nation’s history, people of color and women were shut out from postsecondary education and its benefits. When the divisive Proposition 209 was implemented, for example, offers of admission to Black and Latinx students at California’s most selective institutions plummeted by more than 50 percent and Asian-American students experienced a systemwide decline in their admission rates. 

“Affirmative action policies intended to promote racial and gender diversity remain necessary to counteract the decades of institutional racism and sexism that have blocked the entrance of women generally and women of color specifically to historically male-dominated fields, such as engineering and computer science,” said Emily Martin, vice president of Education & Workplace Justice at the National Women’s Law Center. “An educational experience in a diverse community of learners works to dispel both race and gender stereotypes, which are often intertwined. Diversity is essential to preparing students to succeed as leaders in communities and businesses in a twenty-first century world.”

The organizations also warn that Proposition 209 stands in the way of creating lawful employment opportunities and increasing diversity in the teacher workforce. Research has demonstrated that students of color are less likely to drop out of high school and are more likely to aspire to college when exposed to at least one teacher of color. Yet, recruiting, retaining, and promoting teachers of color in K-12 and higher education lags far behind in California and across the nation even, while our student population becomes more diverse.

The letter sent to the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement can be found here