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‘Savings’ on California initiative challenged – California Civil Rights Initiative – Special Report Top 100 Degree Producers

Proponents of the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) tout it as a measure that will bring about substantial savings to state-house coffers by abolishing so-called state-sponsored discrimination in the form of affirmative action programs.

Many educators, however, say the figures cited by Gov. Pete Wilson’s administration are highly inflated and based on wrong information.

“People in government are playing politics with the numbers,” says Mike Aldaco, executive director of the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program at the University of California. The MESA program has as its mission to increase the numbers of qualified minority college applicants.

According to Aldaco, if CCRI passes, there will not be a savings to the state. In fact, the reverse will happen, he says.

However, Aldaco says, in a state that has a $3 billion deficit, appeals that call for any kind of tax savings are appealing. “Those are buzzwords. It would influence votes.”

State Analyst Challenged

The state’s non-partisan legislative analyst, Elizabeth Hill, has stated that savings from elimination of affirmative action programs based at the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) could total $50 million.

Hill’s statistics were recently challenged in a letter sent her by Dr. Richard Atkinson, president of the University of California system. Said Atkinson: “I am concerned that such an expectation would be raised. Contrary to the notion that money would be saved in the event the CCRI is approved by the voters, we expect the level of university expenditures for affected programs to increase….”

Administrators for both UC and CSU say that for the past several years, virtually all student outreach, scholarship programs and other affirmative action programs have been reconfigured to attract economically and educationally disadvantaged students regardless of ethnicity, race or gender. But CCRI, they say, by targeting economically disadvantaged students, as opposed to racial or ethnic minority students, will broaden, not decrease, the pool of students targeted by both systems.

“The university’s affirmative action programs, developed in the 1960s, have focused special attention on the academic development MN of disadvantaged and minority students; if race, ethnicity and gender should become impermissible criteria for these programs, however, the university would carry on and, to the extent possible, expand its efforts to increase educational opportunities for more Californians,” wrote Atkinson.

Already in Compliance

Additionally, UC administrators say that even if the programs did not expand, Hill has greatly overestimated the potential savings. The reason, they say, is that she is using the total amount from all affirmative action programs, seemingly unaware that some aspects of the programs were already in compliance with the goals of CCRI.

In another Atkinson letter to one of the UC chancellors, he states that only $6 million is used in state funds for affirmative action programs and that, because of reconfiguration, passage of CCRI would not result in savings. He adds: “A decision was made within the Legislative Analyst’s Off ice not to submit our footnote along with the budget figures.”

According to a UC administrator, only $1.2 million in gift funds and endowment income for race-based scholarships is in dispute: “It is unclear at this time how these scholarships would be affected if CCRI is approved.”

CSU Response

In terms of CCRI’s potential effect on CSU, Coleen Adler, a spokeswoman for the system, says that if CCRI has any effect at all, “It’s not going to affect us as much as the University of California.”

In response to Hill’s analysis, CSU Chancellor Barry Munitz also sent a letter to her office. He states: “You will note that with the exception of the CSU scholarship programs for African-American and Hispanic students, CSU campuses have reoriented the eligibility criteria over the past three years to encompass all students enrolled in their service area high schools and community colleges who are educationally disadvantaged regardless of ethnicity, race or gender.”

According to Dr. Munitz, as of the 1996-97 school year, the CSU scholarship programs for African American and Hispanic students will no longer be race-specific, but will be combined into one program targeting economic, social or educationally disadvantaged students: The CSU Scholarship for Future Scholars.

Targeted Programs?

According to the state’s legislative analyst survey, the following CSU programs are potentially affected by CCRI:

* Student Affirmative Action;

* Student Internships: Outreach to Underrepresented High School and Community College Students;

* Faculty-Student Mentoring Program;

* Teacher Diversity;

* College Readiness Program;

* Scholarship for African-American Students;

* Scholarship for Hispanic Students;

* Forgivable Loan Program,

* Graduate Equity Program;

* California Pre-Doctoral Program;

* Faculty Development Affirmative Action Program; and the

* Executive Leadership Development Program.

In response to the survey, Munitz states that these programs are now open to all students and faculty members regardless of race, ethnicity or gender: “Since these programs would be unaffected by passage of CCRI, we assume they will be removed from the ballot pamphlet description your office is preparing.”

Jerry Beavers, of the state legislative office, says that both UC and CSU may be correct in their analysis. His office’s analysis in September was preliminary, before CCRI had qualified for the upcoming fall referendum.

“They may be correct. I wouldn’t question that. We’re in the process of review. We’re updating [our review],” he says.

Part of the reason for the possible discrepancies in savings has to do with potential court decisions and legal issues, says Beavers. In any event, if there are any savings resulting from CCRI, the state would not take the money away, says Beavers, but rather, it would free up money for other uses by the state’s higher education systems.

Jennifer Nelson, spokeswoman for the CCRI initiative, says that her organization has not conducted its own cost analysis. However, she adds, the focus of proponents is not on the cost issue, but on the moral issue.

“There will be a savings, but what’s driving the issue is, should the government be discriminating? The purpose of the initiative is to promote equal opportunity and equal treatment. We can no longer be correcting the wrongs that they [whites] or their grandparents did not commit.”

COPYRIGHT 1996 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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