I write this to express my grave concern over California Constitutional Amendment SCA5, which encourages the use of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin as an admission criterion in California’s public education system. The bill recently passed the state Senate and is pending in the Assembly. If passed there, it may be placed on the November ballot.
The bill aims to repeal portions of Proposition 209 that Californians voted into the state Constitution in 1996. The author, Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-24th District), claims that Proposition 209 prohibits the University of California and California State University systems from diversifying student bodies and providing sufficient opportunities to racial groups in need.
The official data between 1996 and 2012 contradict Hernandez’s claims. More importantly, SCA5 neither addresses the real problems nor amounts of any true help for those underprepared students the bill purports to serve.
What is really broken in California’s public education setup are the underfunded K-12 and higher-education systems. For the former, short school days, high student/teacher ratios and out-of-date educational materials and equipment provide convenient examples. For the latter, it is astonishing that the UC system has opened only one new campus (Merced in 2005) in the past 48 years, though the population of California has grown from 15.7 million in 1960 to 37.3 million in 2010.
The UC system is so financially stressed that it is eager to admit more and more out-of-state and international students just to collect more and higher tuition. The quality and reputation of the UC system are already at risk.
By preferentially and unfairly admitting students by race rather than merit, SCA5 could promote racial hostilities, increase the dropout rates of underprepared students, permanently stigmatize students in those racial groups and reduce all students’ motivations for working diligently. In this globalized economy, SCA5 could severely reduce California’s competitiveness by destroying meritocracy, a fundamental value that helped America become what it is today.
It is true that these problems are difficult. However, ignoring them is not only morally unfair, but it also serves no good in the long run. SCA5 is the wrong solution for the real problems. It is simply un-American.
Richard Liu is a Los Altos resident involved in the local “No on SCA5” effort. An engineer at Dropbox Inc., he immigrated to the United States 22 years ago.