Voters will not only choose the next president on Tuesday, but in many states they will also cast ballots affecting higher colleges and universities across the country.
The two measures getting the most attention are proposed affirmative action bans in Nebraska and Colorado. If passed, they would prohibit public colleges and universities from offering scholarships and programs to minorities and women.
Both bans come from California businessman Ward Connerly, whose organization successfully passed affirmative action bans in California in 1996, Washington in 1998 and Michigan in 2006.
Connerly, who is Black, says he thinks affirmative action is an outdated system that reinforces the perception minorities are second-class citizens who need help to succeed. His fight against affirmative action started when he became convinced schools were admitting less qualified minority applicants over more qualified Whites.
Affirmative action is an antiquated system that, rather than helping minorities, reinforces the perception they are second-class citizens who need help to succeed, Connerly told The Associated Press last month.
Opponents of the measures argue the bans would eliminate programs essential to giving equal opportunity to historically disadvantaged groups like women and minorities. If passed, it would become illegal for Nebraska and Colorado state universities and colleges to continue recruitment and awarding scholarships based on gender, ethnicity and race.
The bans would also prohibit pubic institutions in those states from taking these factors into consideration when hiring employees or contractors.
“Programs we have in Nebraska ensure that all citizens enjoy equality of opportunity, which is not something that’s always been the case,” says David Kramer, campaign director for Nebraskans United, which opposes the measure.
Education would be impacted the most if the proposed ban takes effect, Kramer says.
After similar measures passed elsewhere, state colleges and universities saw a drop in the diversity of their incoming students.
“Our country is built on fact that everyone is given a fair chance to succeed, and I believe eliminating equal opportunity takes that chance away,” says Gregory Cendana, vice president of the United States Student Association, the nation’s oldest student advocacy organization
Those who support Connerly’s proposal argue institutions of higher learning can still serve the same population with income based programs.
In addition to affirmative action, voters will decide whether to send more tax money to universities and colleges across the country.
Many of the measures propose using state revenue from gambling to fund education:
- Arkansas voters will decide on creating a state lottery with proceeds primarily funding college scholarships for state residents.
- Maryland voters will choose whether to allow slot machines in the state; the money would pay for public school and community college construction projects.
- In Missouri, voters will decide whether to repeals caps on gambling losses, which could generate more money for higher education and other state programs.
- And in Maine, voters will decide on building a casino with some proceeds going towards helping residents repay student loans.
Other measures would raise taxes to help cover college costs:
- Colorado voters will decide whether to raise taxes on the oil and gas industry and use the revenue to create college scholarships.
- Florida voters will decide on amending their state’s constitution to give counties the go-ahead to institute a sales tax supporting community colleges.
- Montana voters will decide whether to re-authorize a tax to support the state university system.
- And in New Mexico voters will decide on approving bonds for state universities and colleges.
For more information on state referenda that impact education, go to http://www.ncsl.org/statevote/StateVote2008.htm
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