Governor scores “D” grade on racial equity

Cross-posted at
Gov. Schwarzenegger this year vetoed eight out of 18 bills that would have helped to advance equity for people of color in California, earning him a “D” grade on the Applied Research Center’s annual Report Card on Racial Equity released Wednesday.
The report card, which evaluated the governor and the Legislature on five issue areas — educational equity, economic justice, health equity, civil rights and criminal justice — found that Schwarzenegger rejected policies that would have provided significant structural changes in California. Among the most stark examples were AB 772, the Health Access for Kids bill, and AB 48, the Fair Minimum Wage Increase. If signed, these bills would have improved the plight of millions of Black, Latino, Asian Native American, immigrant and poor communities across the state.
In examining each issue area, the report also documents glaring disparities that exist for people of color in California, highlighting very clearly why these reforms that were vetoed are so needed.

  • Educational equity: Only one in four high school graduates of color is college-ready in California, compared to 40 percent of whites.
  • Economic justice: Blacks and Latinos are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty than whites. Half of Latinos, 43 percent of Blacks, and a quarter of Asians live in or near poverty in California.
  • Health equity: Seventy-one percent of California’s 6.5 million uninsured are people of color.
  • Civil Rights: Since 1995, there have been 12,000 hate crimes in California motivated by race and ethnicity, making up 60% of all hate crimes.
  • Criminal justice: California spends more to keep people of color in jail than to provide them with a higher education.

And yet despite the existence of these historical and persistent racial disparities, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s veto list reveals a disturbing pattern of resistance to addressing them. For the second year in a row, he vetoed a minimum wage increase and AB 13, which would have simply required public schools to ophase out the racist term “Redskins” in reference to team mascots. He also struck down AB 89, the Employer Health Coverage Disclosure bill, showing a pattern of denying racial disparities by refusing to collect data that may expose those inequities.

The report shows that more work is needed in the Legislature as well. The Assembly received a “C” score, and the Senate a “D,” although 40 lawmakers, all Democrats, were listed as “honor roll” members for earning a perfect 100% score on all the bills.
Nevertheless, the report shows that “colorblind” policies have failed California dramatically. Race-based reforms are needed to ensure that all people of this state have an equal oppportunity to learn, live in safe and healthy communities, and earn a living wage.
Right now, Governor Schwarzenegger clearly lacks the courage and political will to address the needs of California’s growing majority.