Californians to decide in November whether to reinstate affirmative action; here are both sides of the argument

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Californians will soon vote on legislation that would reinstate affirmative action in the state, allowing colleges and universities to consider race and gender as a factors for admission.

Affirmative action was banned in California in 1996, making it illegal to give admission or hiring preference to someone based on race, sex, ethnicity, color or national origin.

On Wednesday, California's senate repealed the ban in a 30-10 vote.

Californians will decide the future of affirmative action come November.

The University of California Board of Regents voted unanimously earlier this month to support reinstating affirmative action in California.

The 1996 legislation has been blamed for the decrease in diversity in the public university system.

RELATED: University of California endorses affirmative action measure

On Thursday, ABC7's Kristen Sze spoke to several experts on the legislation, including San Francisco Assm. David Chiu, Ward Connerly, who is considered the architect of Proposition 209 that made affirmative action illegal, and Cecelia Estolano, a regent with University of California.

Chiu voted to repeal the the ban on affirmative action in California.

"I voted for ACA 5 because of the structural racism that we have in our society today," he said.

He referenced how the generation after Proposition 209 said that a new generation should have the chance to decide whether race and gender should play a role in education and public employment.

Regent Estolano said the UC's move to eliminate the standardized testing admissions requirement was one step in tackling structural racism in college admissions.

Estolano said the ban on affirmative action is the "largest impediment" in the fight against structural racism.

There are currently eight states in the U.S. that prohibit the affirmative action, she said.

She said those who gain admission into the UC become leaders, but because of the ban, she says, a generation has been lost.

RELATED: University of California eliminates SAT, ACT testing as admissions requirement for freshman students

"We'll act on this immediately if the voters speak and tell us that they want to put an end to this tragic experiment in so-called 'race neutral,' but actually racist approach to considerations," Estolano said.

Connerly, a former UC regent and proponent of the 1996 Proposition 209, believes everyone should be given an equal chance based on their merit.

Connerly led the fight more than two decades ago to ban affirmative action.

Assm. Chiu reiterated that two-thirds of California's K-12 educators are white, which doesn't represent the state's demographics.

"The reason we need to bring back affirmative action is that when it comes to K through 12, we don't have educators that look like California," he said.

Watch the full interview above to hear more from Assm. Chiu, Connerly and Estolano.
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