November 17, 2006

As Census Reports Deepening Racial Divide, Lawmakers Fail to Provide Solutions

New Report Gives California Officials Low Marks on Racial Equity in Session Plagued by Missed Opportunities

By Menachem Krajcer
Senior Policy Analyst –Public Policy
Applied Research Center

(Oakland, CA) — In the wake of startling Census numbers, new research from the Applied Research Center (ARC) documents the failure of California lawmakers to address a deepening racial divide that threatens the security and well-being of all Californians. FACING RACE: California Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity 2006, evaluates the Governor and Legislature on their support for proactive legislation to close long-standing disparities in health, education, income and other key indicators. With the legislature scoring a “C-” and Governor Schwarzenegger a “D,” the report reveals partisan politics is standing in the way of progress in the nation’s most diverse state.

“New census data released today shows that race matters in California and throughout the nation. As our population grows, we need a plan for addressing the changing needs of our diverse state,” said Menachem Krajcer, senior policy analyst at the Applied Research Center and the report’s author. “Bitter partisan politics and budget restraints are crippling long overdue reforms in health and education.”

Data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau documents a persistent and deepening racial divide nationwide and in California. White households had incomes that were two-thirds higher than Blacks and 40% higher than Hispanics last year. Whites are also more likely to attend college and less likely to live in poverty. FACING RACE 2006 poses the critical questions of the nation’s racial divide to those in power, evaluating Governor Arnold Schwarzen-egger and members of the Legislature on their support for legislation that would bridge the racial gap.

In addition, the annual report, now in its 3rd year, offers a county by county mapping of demographic changes and an analysis of the racial divide in California healthcare, schools and jobs.

“For Latinos in California and other communities of color, race continues to have a disparate impact when it concerns health outcomes. Despite advancements in medical technology, we continue to lag behind outcome improvements, particularly with chronic illnesses,” said Lupe Alonzo Diaz, Executive Director for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. “As California’s diverse communities continue to increase, the time is now to craft meaningful solutions to many of these problems.”

Report Highlights

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger received a D for 55% support for racial equity legislation.

Both the Assembly and the Senate received a low C for support of racial equity—69% and 65% respectively.

The strongest leadership for racial equity was in the Assembly: Of the 20 racial equity bills that were passed by the legislature, 12 originated in the Assembly. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez received an A for 100% support, Senate pro Tem Don Perata received a C for 70% support, for failure to vote on six racial equity bills.

The higher the racial diversity of a legislative district, the higher the support for racial equity. Average scores for districts with 75% or more people of color were 99% in the Assembly and 95% in the Senate. On average, districts with white majorities voted for racial equity 44% of the time in the Assembly and 43% of the time in the Senate.

Missed Opportunities

Increasing College Access: From raising the standards of the state’s high school curriculum (AB 1896) to ensuring college opportunity (SB 1709), key education reforms failed to pass the legislature or were vetoed by the Governor.

Health Care for All. The state failed to support counties providing health care to all children over a partisan divide over immigrant children. A single payer health care system to cover all Californians, including 6.5 million currently uninsured was vetoed by the Governor.

“While racial disparities are pervasive in California, they need not be permanent. For this state and others around the country, the time has come to begin facing race,” Tammy Johnson, policy director at the Applied Research Center which also released reports on racial equity in Minnesota and Illinois today. “Overcoming institutional racism involves restructuring the distribution of rights and resources in this state and nationwide. Our elected leaders must create innovative solutions that take this responsibility seriously.”

FACING RACE: California Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity is the follow-up to the Applied Research Center’s California Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity 2005 and California’s New Majority 2004 Legislative Report Card on Race.

The full report is available online at www.arc.org.

The Applied Research Center (ARC) is a public policy institute advancing racial justice through research, advocacy and journalism.

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