California State Constitution and Amendments

California Constitution, 1849: Article IX (including amendments), providing for public school and a state university

Section 4 of Article IX of California's first state constitution provides for the organization of a state university, and authorizes the state to acquire federal lands allocated for such purposes by Congress under the Northwest Ordinance and similar acts. Chartering of a state university (what became the University of California) did not occur until the 1860s and under statutory law.

The 1849 constitution also established the statewide elected position of Superintendent for Public Instruction based in large part on a similar provision in the state constitution of New York. No provision was made for a State Board of Education (see 1884 amendment). -- JAD

California Constitution, 1879: Article IX (including amendments), elevating UC to a public trust

California's second state constitution made a number of sweeping changes that included elevating the University of California to the status of a "public trust." Modeled on a similar provision for the University of Michigan, this new provision placed the University of California in the constitution and gave its Board of Regents authority on all issues related to the management the institution, "subject only to such legislative control as may be necessary to insure compliance with the terms of its endowments, and the proper investment and security of its funds." Hence, beyond fiduciary regulations as a public institution, statutory laws are not binding. Only five other public universities have a similar status and arguably the University of California has the greatest level of autonomy.

A number of subsequent amendments to the constitution changed the membership of the Board of Regents and their terms. The following lists other important amendments:

  • The State Board of Education (est. 1852) is elevated to a constitutional status composed of the Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the principals of the State normal schools.
  • The State Board of Education amended to include a "professor of pedagogy" from the University of California, and the president of the University of California.

-- JAD

1918 California Constitutional Amendment: Section 9 of Article IX, changing the composition of the UC board of regents

The 1918 amendment to Article IX modified the provision for the University of California by eliminating reference to the original 1868 Organic Act, incorporating some of the original language in that act, and stating the membership of the Board of Regents with appointed members to serve 16 year terms. This included the addition of the President of the Alumni Association. -- JAD

1945 California Constitutional Amendment: Section 2.1 of Article IX, providing for the new positions of associate superintendent of schools

This amendment to the responsibilities of the State Board of Education provides for the appointment of a "Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction and three Associate Superintendents of Public Instruction." This provided the first state appointment directly responsible for the management of the state colleges. -- JAD

1946 California Constitutional Amendment: Section 6 of Article IX and Section 15 of Article XII, preventing any further absorption of state colleges into the UC

Included in a number of provisions related to California's public education system is a section that forbid any transfer of any state college from the governance of the State Board of Education to the University of California's Board of Regents. This section was added at the request of the State Board following a bitter annexation of the Santa Barbara State College to the University in 1944, and was a response to plans by the University to absorb each of the colleges over time to control enrollment and program growth. -- JAD

1960 California Constitutional Amendment: Section 16 of Article XX, allowing for eight year terms for the trustees of the state colleges

This amendment was specifically passed to allow appointed members of the new Board of Trustees of the State Colleges (what became the California State University). This was the only proposed constitutional provision that passed as a result of the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education completed under the auspices of the UC Board of Regents and the State Board of Education.

The Master Plan had proposed incorporation of the missions and governance of the state's three higher education systems into the state constitution. This included a proposed amendment to establish the Trustees of the State Colleges (what would become the California State University) with the provision that the Trustee have the status of a public trust similar to the UC Board of Regents. Instead, lawmakers placed the mission and governance into statute. -- JAD

1971 California Constitutional Amendment: Section 9 of Article IX, regarding meetings of the UC regents

This amendment required that meetings of the UC Board of Regents "shall be public, with exceptions and notice requirements as may be provided by statute." -- JAD

1972 California Constitutional Amendment: Section 9 of Article IX, requiring state senate approval of UC regents appointments

This amendment required that all 16 appointed members of the UC Board of Regent appointment by the Governor now be "approved" by the California State Senate.

1974 California Constitutional Amendment: Section 9 of Article IX

A number of changes were introduced into Article IX regarding the UC Board of Regents following a legislative review of the California Master Plan for Higher Education. These included:

  • Membership to the board no longer included the President of the Mechanics Institute or the President of the State Board of Agriculture.
  • New members could include at the discretion of the Board of Regents a representative of the faculty (from UC or another higher education institution), a student representative, and must include the Vice President of the Alumni Association. Appointments by the Governor, with State Senate approval, were increased from 16 to 18 members.
  • Henceforth, all appointed members served 12 year terms (was 16).
  • The statement that the membership on the board should "be able persons broadly reflective of the economic, cultural, and social diversity of the state, including ethnic minorities and women."
  • And a provision for an advisory committee to the Governor regarding appointments to the Regents, including members from the state legislature, the faculty, UC students, and lay members.

-- JAD

1976 California Constitutional Amendment: Section 9 of Article IX, regarding UC admissions and competitive bidding

This amendment provided a number of changes regarding the University of California, most significantly the addition of language that no person shall be debarred admission to any department of the university on account of "race, religion, ethnic heritage," or sex. Previously, only gender was listed in Section 9 (dating back to the 1879 Constitution and reflecting a Regental order in 1871). This is in addition to previous language also dating back to the 1868 Organic Act establishing the University of California that the institution "shall be entirely independent of all political or sectarian influence and kept free therefrom in the appointment of its regents and in the administration of its affairs . . . ." Another new provision added in this amendment related to the requirement that the University must follow competitive bidding procedures as mandated by state legislation. -- JAD