During the 1970s, the University of California, Davis, twice rejected Allan Bakke for admission to medical school, but not on the basis of his academic qualifications, which were excellent. Bakke is a person of pale skin shade, and UC Davis had reserved a quota of admissions to minority students whose qualifications did not measure up to Bakke’s. Something similar is now taking place at C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento.
A number of students were accepted to the school’s rigorous Humanities and International Studies Program (HISP). The students’ parents then got a call from district officials informing them that the acceptance notice had been an error. As Katy Grimes explained in the California Globe, it soon emerged that a group of qualified Asians and students of no color had been excluded up-front, and that Sacramento Unified School District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar considered the HISP “too white.”
There is no law or regulation against “too many” students of any group in any program. There is, however, a state law forbidding discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity in state education, employment and contracting. That law is the California Civil Rights Initiative, Proposition 209, approved by voters in 1996. Superintendent Aguilar seems unaware of the measure, but legal action by parents could bring it to his attention. As parents already know, the superintendent also has difficulties on the financial side.
The Sacramento school district faces insolvency and is under threat of state takeover with a budget deficit of $35 million. As deficits mounted, Aguilar and seven other administrators spent more than $35,000 to attend a conference at Harvard Business School. As Marcos Breton noted in the Sacramento Bee, the district devotes 91 percent of its budget to salary and benefits, and in 2006 “state auditors warned the district of the danger in having salaries and benefits to eat up 91 percent of their total general fund.”
The district pays superintendent Aguilar a salary of $295,000, plus the usual ruling-class package of gold-plated benefits. The mounting deficits prompted no salary cut for Aguilar, who can’t make the district solvent despite a steady stream of money from the state, not tied to any improvements in student achievement. And when students do achieve at a high level, the superintendent claims the HISP program is “too white.” To prefer prejudice violates state law. Somebody from the attorney general’s office needs to look into it.