Statement from Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga in Response to Proposition 16 Outcome


OAKLAND, Calif. Prop 16 was an opportunity to take action against systemic racism and level the playing field for all students. It was intended to provide policymakers with a powerful tool to dismantle persistent and structural inequality by allowing us to better support the most vulnerable students, fight discrimination and retain teachers of color.

While the proposition was not successful, our surveys of parents of K-12 public school students in California revealed overwhelming support for antiracism, diversity and equal opportunity. We will continue listening to their calls for justice, and they will be the driving force that inspires us to continue advocating for change. Though we are one tool short, we will not be deterred from addressing the systemic barriers faced by students, especially students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. 

Much work remains to ensure every Californian has an equal chance at opportunity. This year, we have grieved the loss of innocent Black lives, grappled with the ugly legacy of systemic racism and wrestled with the impact of a global pandemic in our homes and in our schools. And we at the Education Trust–West (ETW) will continue to stand with students and families across California. We will continue to call for increased urgency in reimagining our schools so that they truly reflect our state’s progressive values and better serve our most vulnerable students. 

We remain full of hope that change is possible, and we will continue to lift up policies that support the high academic achievement of all of California’s students pre-K through college, including: 

  • Closing gaps in math achievements and integrating anti-racist practices. Educators and leaders can prevent gaps in math achievement while integrating anti-racist teaching methods through resources such as “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction,” a toolkit for supporting equitable access to math standards for English Language Learners, Black and Latinx students. 
  • Securing equitable funding for our schools. We must ensure equitable funding in our pre-K-12 system with state and federal investments in our schools so they are able to offer high-quality distance learning and reopen when it’s safe to do so. 
  • Creating access to the state’s public universities and colleges. We are calling on the CSU Board of Trustees to reject the Quantitative Reasoning proposal, which could hamper access to higher education for thousands of students of color. This proposal, while well-intentioned, ignores that most schools do not have the resources to fulfill the requirements of this proposal. For example, the shortage of teachers across the states would make it challenging for students to access a qualified math or science teacher.  
  • Eliminating the digital divide. A lack of reliable internet access is a top concern for low-income and Latinx families and impacts students’ ability to learn. Policymakers and education leaders must provide solutions to ensure all students, particularly students of color and students from lower-income communities, have access to devices and connectivity. As the California Broadband Council develops the California State Broadband Action Plan, education, equity and advocacy groups have the opportunity to be part of the process and outline their recommendations and priorities by the public comment deadline on November 20.



About The Education Trust–West 

The Education Trust–West works for educational justice and the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-K through college, in the state of California. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.

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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.