Educators Speak Out on Ballot Measure to Fund Art, Music in CA Schools

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Supporters of Prop 28 say that funding for arts education is too unstable, getting cut and restored as budgetary needs change. Photo Credit: Bernardbodo / Adobe Stock

A new ballot measure to support arts education will go before California voters in November.

Proposition 28 would require that 1% of school funding go toward arts and music education. The measure does not provide new money, but rather directs districts to prioritize existing funds.

“Just as math teaches them two plus two and how to get along in life and how to balance their checkbook, the arts teach them how to have empathy, how to be better people, how to have confidence and interact,” said Richard De Haven, president of Children’s Playtime Productions in Palm Desert, which has offered in-school and after-school children’s theater programs for 27 years. “Confidence is a huge one.”

Opponents favor a focus on reading, writing and math and have said the measure would limit school districts’ flexibility, especially in tough economic times. Prop 28 would apply to all K-through-12 public schools, including charter schools. It would concentrate more funding in low-income schools. It would not raise taxes but would direct about $800 million to $1 billion a year in existing funds toward the arts.

De Haven said he’s seen arts education improve test scores, reduce bullying and encourage further academic pursuits.

“We’ve noticed that the kids who are exposed to the arts do much better in school, and tend to go to college more often than those who are not exposed to the arts,” he said.

Under Prop 28, schools with more than 500 students would have to spend 80% of their arts budget on staff and 20% on supplies and training. The group Californians for Arts and Music Education in Public Schools, which is campaigning for the measure, estimates that 90% of elementary schools, 96% of middle schools and 72% of high schools in the Golden State fail to provide a high-quality course of arts education.