Calif. (KION) Back in 1996, Californians approved Prop 209. It mandated that universities and government groups not consider applicants based on race, gender and ethnicity.
On November 3, voters could decide to repeal Prop 209 with Prop 16 and bring back what is known as "affirmative action."
"What it does is level the playing field so that those who are being discriminated against can be amplified. People can ensure that there is no discrimination happening because they'll be able to look at and aggregate for race and gender," said Maureen Simmons with the "Yes on 16" Campaign.
Simmons recently graduated from the University of California Berkeley. On campus she noticed racial disparities, which she said the university couldn't provide an explanation for.
"Currently in California, because gender and race can't be considered, we aren't even able to truly look at where the disparities are," said Simmons.
Simmons said Prop 16 could fix that. Both the University of California and California State University boards endorsed Prop 16.
In a statement, University of California President, Janet Napolitano, said "The diversity of our university and higher education institutions across california, should — and must — represent the rich diversity of our state.”
California is just one of nine U.S. states that does not have an affirmative action law.
Those against Prop 16 said reinstating affirmative action in California encourage could further encourage inequality and racism. "I believe that the idea that we need to lower the standard for certain people based on the color of their skin is just not right," said Kali Fontanilla with the "No on 16" Campaign.
Fontanilla graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz and teaches high school in Salinas. She said she has seen first hand how her students have been able to rise to the occasion, without special considerations.
"This idea that we need to give them a leg up is very demeaning. I've seen, over and over again, minority kids not only hit the bar, but go above it," said Fontanilla.
Fontanilla believes California should focus on fixing disparities from the ground up. "I've seen my students raise from failing to being some of the brightest, smartest, sharpest, fastest-learning kids on campus. If we really focus on education I think that's where the solution lies," said Fontanilla.