Transcript: Prop. 28 Would Provide Dedicated Arts Education Funding

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Three teenage boys-of-color huddle around an art project on the table.
Students in a digital photography class create fake ice cream for a photo shoot. (Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages)

Olivia Allen-Price: [00:00:17] Hey there! I’m Olivia Allen-Price and I want to welcome to episode three in the Bay Curious Prop Fest series. If you’re just tuning in, we are partway through our journey into the seven propositions on the California ballot this fall. Last week we explored Props 1, 26 and 27 – about abortion and sports betting. If you missed those be sure to go give them a listen in the Bay Curious podcast feed.

Today we’re back with our friends at The Bay to understand Proposition 28 … all about education funding. Ready to hit the books? Here’s how it will read on your ballot.

Voicer [00:00:45] Prop. 28 provides additional funding from State General Fund for Arts and Music, Education and all K through 12 public schools, including charter schools.

Olivia Allen-Price:[00:00:56] Today we’ll dive in and discuss: Should we spend roughly $1 billion annually on arts education? That’s all just ahead on Prop Fest.

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Olivia Allen-Price: KQED’s Julia McEvoy has been covering education at KQED for years. She spoke with The Bay’s Ericka Cruz Guevarra about Proposition 28.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra: How does arts education work in California right now?

Julia McEvoy: [00:01:22] The State Education Code requires schools to offer courses of study in four arts disciplines to all California K-through-12 students. But it just really isn't happening across the board.

Julia McEvoy: [00:01:42] There's been some improvement, there's been some more money, but it really hasn't changed a whole lot. Mainly elementary schools and schools serving high numbers of children from low-income families. They have less access to art instruction. They even have trouble getting access to instruction at all. And they're less likely to have dedicated rooms with specialized equipment for the arts.

Angelee Montances: [00:02:07] I do think about that and it says something I'm really, really passionate about.

Julia McEvoy: [00:02:10] I think this is what Angelee Montances sees. She's this student I met at Richmond High School in the East Bay, and she's in the Advanced Orchestra class there.

Angelee Montances: [00:02:21] Like, over the years, I've noticed, like communities like mine, Richmond High, where it's predominantly brown kids, we don't get the same opportunity as in like Hercules, which is, you know, predominantly Asian kids and white kids.

Julia McEvoy: [00:02:32] You know, when she sees kids from the Hercules High Orchestra going to Disneyland, you know, at a cost of like 20 grand and her music instructor, Mr. Wilkie, says he gets just $1400 a year total for supplies and that's like uniforms and instruments for 140 kids. And so Angela sees this and she she feels it's unfair.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra: [00:02:54] So that's interesting. Arts education is required in California, but it doesn't sound like it's necessarily guaranteed, and especially not equally. How did the pandemic affect arts education?

Julia McEvoy: [00:03:08] There's this organization called the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, which serves kids from the Richmond area. And they offer free arts for kids in Richmond and there, they partner with schools to help fill the gaps in arts education because the schools can't afford a full time arts teacher, so they'll do an after school program and they'll contract with this organization and say, 'Please send in some arts instructors and we'll give our kids some art.' And there's a woman there named Andrea Landin, and she's the director of programs. And she says this past year she had so many principals calling from throughout  the district.

Andrea Landin: [00:03:43] Saying that my students have been sitting in front of a screen for a year and a half. They need to sing, they need to move, they need to express themselves.

Julia McEvoy: [00:03:53] And I think that's then sort of the universal, like cry that you have seen and maybe even helped prompt this proposition.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra: [00:04:07] Can you tell me the backstory behind this prop? Why is it on the ballot in the first place?

Julia McEvoy: [00:04:13] So Austin Beutner is the former superintendent of L.A. Unified and he is the person who put forth this measure.

Austin Beutner: [00:04:21] Arts is not the sprinkles that one puts on top of an ice cream sundae, arts is the central part of a good education.

Julia McEvoy: [00:04:26] And he says basically that as an education leader of the state's largest district, L.A. Unified, he saw firsthand the value of arts education.

Austin Beutner: [00:04:36] The superintendent, when I visit schools, I would invariably ask, what can I do to help? Always on the top three was more arts and music.

Julia McEvoy: [00:04:44] You know, I think most people think of arts education just as music classes. And I think what Beutner is trying to say is that when the arts are done well, it's much more than that. It's culture. The art can affect kids’ well-being. Kids can see themselves reflected in music, theater, dance. And those kids’ families see and feel this when they come to witness the performances in schools, and they also become inspired and can see themselves validated. So, it can be a powerful sort of instrument for the community to come together. Beutner makes the point that arts and music education improves cognitive development.

Austin Beutner: [00:05:18] We know from the research students who participate in arts and music and have proper arts music education will do better in school, do better in math, will do better in reading.

Julia McEvoy: [00:05:29] So like all of these things, he feels like really matter right now, especially coming out of the pandemic. And he declares that, you know, California is behind when it comes to providing schools with funding for arts and music education. And then he kind of makes this other point that, like, it's really ironic in California, which is like the capital of the world's creative economy, right? Supporting 2.6 million jobs in the state. And yet we only have one in five public schools in California that has a dedicated teacher for traditional arts programs, you know, like music and dance, theater and art, or let alone computer graphics and animation coding and costume design and filmmaking. Beutner want to do something about this. He wanted to change this picture, and it led him to put forth this measure, Prop. 28.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra: [00:06:10] Well, let's talk about what Prop. 28 does exactly. How would this proposition provide support for arts education where we haven't so far?

Julia McEvoy: [00:06:21] It's pretty big. I mean, Proposition 28 would roughly double the amount of funding California gives schools for arts and music education, 30% of that money would go to schools that serve students from low-income communities. Voters would also be locking in that funding stream for the future since Proposition 28 requires that the annual amount be equal to at minimum, 1% of the amount allocated for public education. It's not going to raise taxes. This comes out of the general fund. And what that means is these are the funds that are raised primarily through income sales, corporate and capital gains taxes. And that's combined with local property tax revenues. And so that's where this funding for this measure would come out of that general fund. The Legislative Analyst's Office estimated this could raise about between $800 million and $1 billion for the arts. On the other hand, we're now already having more money going to schools than ever before. In June this year, California passed a state budget that increases the base funding for local control funding formula. And that's the mechanism through which most of the state's public schools are funded. And it increased by 9 billion or 13%. This was the largest single year increase to the formula since its inception in 2013. So, the truth is schools do already have a lot more money than they've had in years past. Right. And they're trying to figure out how to spend that money right now to improve students’ well-being and academic outcomes. And you could argue, well, they can use this money on the arts. Right. The central tenet of this proposition is like when budgets do contract, that's when the arts always get cut. They're saying, we're going to guarantee this amount every year. So, if there's a recession and schools have to cut, they won't have to necessarily cut the arts first. This money will be there. This measure says no matter what, there will be a guaranteed money for full time arts teachers in public schools. And that's a real commitment. It's a new commitment.

Jazz Monique Hudson: [00:08:29] I specifically started teaching in the arts, in the juvenile justice system.

Julia McEvoy: [00:08:34] That interviewed a woman named Jazz Monique Hudson. And I met her in Castro Valley High School, right as kids were coming back into school and she was teaching spoken word poetry there. And it was really this empowering, liberating, creative expression for students who were processing the trauma of the pandemic. It was, it was really impressive. And when I caught up with her last week, she said, 'oh, I don't teach spoken word anymore.' And I'm like, 'What? Why?' And she goes, 'Well, I just wasn't getting enough work. Like the Oakland Public Schools canceled the Youth Speak.'

Jazz Monique Hudson: [00:09:07] Youth Speaks is very prominent in San Francisco. However, they have not been able to maintain and sustain their partnerships with Oakland schools due to funding. I was set to teach at Elmhurst Middle School this semester but could not teach in the teaching art program because there wasn't enough funding for the spoken word program.

Julia McEvoy: [00:09:30] And she just like felt like it was too uncertain and she couldn't do it anymore.

Jazz Monique Hudson: [00:09:34] I'm no longer doing direct service with young people, and it's partially because of the pay.

Julia McEvoy: [00:09:40] And she's really excited about Prop. 28. She thinks like this is so needed. And I have a feeling that if this came through and she could be hired as a full-time arts teacher, she would. And a lot of kids would benefit from a woman like that in their classroom.

Jazz Monique Hudson: [00:09:58] And keeping the funding and bringing more funding, increased funding to public schools. I believe you will see a decrease in truancy, a decrease in expulsion, a decrease in depression.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra: [00:10:21] Well, Julia, I want to move into who is for and against this prop. Apart from the former L.A. superintendent who supports this proposition, what groups?

Julia McEvoy [00:10:35] Well, the California Teachers Association and, you know, again, we're talking about doubling the number of full-time arts teachers. So that certainly helps their ranks. We also have the former secretary of education under President Obama, his, this man's name is Arne Duncan, and he's, he wrote the op ed with Austin Beutner supporting this. He's definitely one of the supporters. And then there's a lot of Hollywood celebs like Dr. Dre and Christina Aguilera, Common and for us, oldsters, Bonnie Raitt, you know, people like that.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra: [00:11:08] I feel like I have a pretty good sense, Julia, of the rationale behind Prop. 28. Is there any organized opposition around Prop. 28?

Julia McEvoy [00:11:18] No, there is not. But there have been a couple of op-ed pieces in a couple of newspapers that have said this is not a good idea. This is called ballot box budgeting locks legislators in and the budget is flush right now. Sure. But there's concern that if and when the economy contracts, the state will be locked into, right? This funding for the arts in schools. And that could end up forcing cuts in other programs, and it, they say it ties the hands of legislators, essentially the folks we elect, to make these decisions for us. But nothing official.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra: [00:11:52] So how much money has been poured into the campaign for this prop and also against. Do we know?

Julia McEvoy [00:12:00] Well, so far, $9.8 million has come in in support of the measure. And $4.2 million of that is from Beutner, another million like from Fender musical Instruments, and another million from the California Teachers Association. And at this point, nothing has been spent against it.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra: [00:12:19] Well, if that is the case, what do we know, Julia, about how likely this is to pass in California?

Julia McEvoy [00:12:27] I don't know how voters are going to feel when they get in here and read this. It's such a feel-good measure, right? You'd think like, 'oh, yeah, more money for arts. Why not?' But, you know, I think there's probably some people who might associate it with tax increases, maybe wrongly. It's not a tax increase to pay for this. But they may feel that and they may say, 'oh, I'm not sure about that.' I haven't seen very much polling around it yet. I anticipate that we'll see that pretty soon. Maybe we'll have a better idea than.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra: [00:12:56] Well. Julia, thank you so much for breaking this down. I appreciate it.

Julia McEvoy [00:13:00] So fun to do this with you, Ericka.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra: [00:13:04] In a nutshell, a vote 'yes' on Prop. 28 means that the state will guarantee additional funding for arts education in K-through-12 public schools. A vote 'no' means funding for arts and education will continue to depend on whether the state and local districts want to spend that money.

Olivia Allen-Price:That was the Bay’s Ericka Cruz Guevarra and Julia McEvoy, a Senior Editor at KQED who covers education. That's it for Prop Fest today.

That’s it for Prop Fest today. If you've been enjoying the series, share it with a friend! You’ll find everything you need at KQED.org/PropFest.

The series is made by the team behind The Bay: Alan Monticello, Ericka Cruz Guevarra and Maria Esquinca … and us here at Bay Curious: Katrina Schwartz, Amanda Font, Brendan Willard and me, Olivia Allen-Price. Darren Tu is our social video intern.

Thanks also to Robin Epley from the Sacramento Bee who did that interview you heard with former LA superintendent Austin Beutner.

We're coming at you again tomorrow, with our episode on Proposition 29 – the dialysis prop. I'll see ya then!

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