Impact of Proposition 209 Continues to Hamper Minority Students and Educators, Locally and Statewide

In 1996, California voted to support Proposition 209, a measure that would end state mandated Affirmative Action programs.

In July of 2006, nearly ten years after Proposition 209, the UC Board of Regents approved a proposal to study how California’s Proposition 209 has affected the makeup of University of California student bodies over the past decade. The results of that study should be out this week.

According to a 2005 San Francisco Chronicle articles, the number of African-American freshmen enrollees fell by one-quarter from Fall of 1997 to Fall of 1998. And the number of enrollees was already an extremely low number when the new law took effect.

While we await the new report due out this week, at a local level, we have been well aware of the impact of elimination of the Affirmative Action laws.

One of the biggest problems has been in the realm of recruiting–because under Proposition 209, one cannot specifically recruit minorities either as students or job applicants. Thus many good outreach programs were shifted and abandoned after the passage of the law.

As we reported last week, one of the approaches that the school district has tried to take to increase its number of minority teachers was to send out recruiting teams to various recruiting fairs across California—especially in diverse communities such as Sacramento, Carson, and Fresno. Locations where one would expect to find a sizable percentage of minority applicants.

As Board Member Keltie Jones mentioned at the meeting last week, even in such areas as San Francisco State, which has a much more diverse population than our local area, the number of African-Americans graduating from the teaching credential program is zero.

The Sacramento Bee this weekend featured an article on the lack of Latino/ Hispanic Teachers at Woodland Community College–a school where nearly 44% of students are Latino.

According to the article:

Latinos represent 44 percent of students at Woodland Community College, but the campus has never had a full-time Latino instructor during its 30-year history, according to the college’s records.

Currently, there are 104 faculty members, which includes two Latino counselors and six part-time Latino instructors.

“We’re not saying the professors we have are bad,” Alfaro said. “But when you have Chicano professors, they know something that an Anglo professor might not.”

College President Angela Fairchilds said the lack of Latino professors is not because of discrimination in hiring, but a lack of Latino applicants.

She supports students who want mentors who look like them and who better understand their situations.

“We share their concern about the lack of diversity among full-time faculty on campus, but we are constrained by law in how we can respond,” Fairchilds said.

The basic fact of the matter is that as much as many people would like to believe that we are past racism and the effects of racism, we are not. Education needs to be the bridge for many young minorities to cross. However, many find a lack of support and lack of positive role models who can share their experiences.

As the Davis Joint Unified School District fully recognizes, we need a more diverse group of teachers who can help teach, guide, and mentor young minorities.

The results though are not promising right now. Despite concerted efforts, Interim Superintendent Richard Whitmore conceded:

“I think it would be fair to say that those recruiting fairs did not turn up a lot”

Moreover next week, the Achievement Gap Task Force will present its findings. Past findings have suggested that even when you control for the education level of the parents, minority students achieve at a considerably lower rate than white and Asian students. That holds even in the households where both parents are college educated.

While many in California in 1996 seemed to believe that minorities were somehow getting free handouts and being advantaged over other students, the facts are that even with considerably more resources at their advantage, minority students were struggling at all levels of the system–in school, to gain admission to college, and to gain access to the job market. Those tools have been obliterated by the passage of Proposition 209 and now it is left to dedicated professionals to figure out how to compensate. In the meantime, the achievement gap both locally and statewide is widening, not shrinking. Frankly, Proposition 209 is the last thing that minorities needed. It has been a decade since its passage, and there is yet to be any kind of indication that the outcomes that Ward Connerly predicted would come to pass with the removal of affirmative action, have indeed done so.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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