Proposition 28 asks voters to approve $1 billion for arts and music in California schools

a kindergarten teacher collects crayons from students in a classroom
Proposition 28 would secure guaranteed annual funding for California’s K-12 schools to be used toward courses such as music, dance, theater, photography and graphic design.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Proposition 28, on the ballot in November, would bring in an additional $1 billion annually for California schools to add music and arts education.

Election 2022: California

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A measure on the November ballot could boost school funding for music and arts education by about $1 billion — a move that proponents say will create more equitable classrooms and lead to a more diverse workforce in California’s pivotal entertainment industry.

If approved by voters, Proposition 28 would secure guaranteed annual funding for California’s K-12 schools to be used toward courses such as music, dance, theater, photography and graphic design.

The proposal would not raise taxes, but would require the state to set aside an amount for arts education that equals 1% of the total funding provided to schools each year.

Schools are required to offer art courses, but resources for those programs are often the first to go during tough financial times, said former L.A. Unified Supt. Austin Beutner, who is leading the proposal.

Despite a record high state budget, only 1 in 5 public schools in California have a full-time arts and music program — a fact that Beutner called “awful.”

“With lack of adequate funding at schools, it comes down to an issue of choice, but a choice that can’t be made, where having art means less math, less English,” he said.

Celebrities such as Dr. Dre and John Mayer are promoting the measure as a way to strengthen and create equity within California’s iconic creative industry.

Beutner, who is a former publisher of The Times, pointed to research that shows that music and art classes can help students with cognitive development and other learning.

“It’s the social-emotional piece that people connect with first,” he said, crediting playing the cello for his own growth as a student. “It gave me a sense of agency and a sense of belonging. I could play in front of thousands of people before I could speak before tens of people.”

The proposal would give more to schools depending on how many students live in low-income households, and would require that 80% of spending at larger schools be used to employ teachers, with the rest going toward training and materials.

The measure allows the state Legislature to reduce the arts funding in years of economic downturn.

Under the California Constitution, schools are required to receive about a 40% chunk of the total state budget each year. The money provided by Proposition 28 would be in addition to that amount.

The state’s existing school funding formula — which provided $128.6 billion for K-12 programs in the budget finalized by Gov. Gavin Newsom in June — is still not enough to support the state’s nearly 6 million students, Beutner said.

“Those who say there’s plenty of money haven’t been to a public school in California in a long time,” he said.

The estimated $1 billion increase in school funding under Proposition 28 is less than one-half of 1% of the state’s total general fund budget, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Proposition 28 faces no official opposition that has registered with the state.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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