Advancing Equity with Race Conscious Policymaking: ACA 5 Update

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Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West issued the following statement in response to the  Assembly Appropriations Committee vote on ACA 5:

Today, the Assembly Appropriations Committee took an important step toward equality for all Californians by advancing ACA 5, which would give voters the opportunity to end the state’s counterproductive ban on affirmative action.

The past week has been a painful reminder that racism and discrimination continue to eat away at progress toward equal opportunity, especially for communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by harmful systems for far too long. I am more resolved than ever that our collective work to advance equity requires race conscious policymaking – this is one path forward to directly address structural racism. 

When Proposition 209 was passed almost 25 years ago, it forced our state leaders to turn a blind eye to discrimination and inequality. We cannot overcome the barriers to equal opportunity if we pretend they do not exist. 

In recent days, I have been grateful to see so many allies and young people speak out against injustice. Those words matter, and their true power is in their ability to spur action and enact change. No single policy or program will reverse centuries of oppression, but repealing Prop 209 would end an era of willful ignorance and start to level the playing field.

This chance to vote our values now moves to the full Assembly which takes place in the coming weeks. We all have a role to play in this moment. If you are a legislator who has spoken out against inequality, California is counting on you to put your power behind your words. If you lead an organization that has reaffirmed its commitment to diversity and inclusion, now is the time to join us in the Opportunity for All coalition. If you’re an advocate, this is a chance to exercise your voice by contacting your representatives.

It’s time to stop the cycle of history repeating. Prop 209 was a misguided effort that resulted in the spread of racial disparities in California. Today, the impact of these missteps are on full display, but California has a chance to choose a different direction.


Please join the Education Trust-West and over one hundred civil rights, education equity, labor, business and community organizations across California in strong support of ACA 5.

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.