California Voters Say Yes to Art Education

As the results of the US midterm elections roll in, another silver lining has emerged: California has passed the new Arts and Music in Schools Funding Guarantee Accountability Act (known as Proposition 28), which will provide around $1 billion annually toward art education — around 1% of the state’s public and charter school funding. Though official results are still pending, the Associated Press called the race, with 65% of voters in favor of the ballot measure.

Although California state law requires schools to provide first through sixth graders with art and music classes; seventh and eighth graders with those subjects as electives; and high schoolers with one year of visual or performing arts instruction, almost 90% of schools do not meet the state’s guidelines.

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Additionally, only one in five California schools has full-time art and music teachers. Under Proposition 28, 80% of the new funding must be allocated toward hiring teachers, which could help remedy the state’s staffing statistics.

Proposition 28 could also help fix disparities in arts education along economic lines. Recent data shows that only 14% of schools with a majority low-income student body offer the four arts disciplines (visual art, music, dance, and theater), compared to 32% of schools with a majority of affluent students. The new law dictates that 70% of funding will go toward schools based on enrollment numbers, but the remaining 30% will be allocated based on their makeups of low-income students.

In an interview with Hyperallergic last month, Tom DeCaigny, executive director of the Pasadena-based arts education advocacy coalition Create CA, said the new law would “help Californians understand that the arts are not just for wealthy people.”

“It’s not just about museums, the symphony, the opera, the ballet, but rather than the arts are a vehicle for creating a well-rounded person in US democracy,” DeCaigny said.


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