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California's Prop 28: Guarantee funding for arts and music education

The measure would require the state to allocate at least 1% of Prop. 98 funding for music and arts education.

CALIFORNIA, USA — Proposition 28's goal is to hire more arts and music teachers for California's public schools.

It sets aside roughly $1 billion for art classes, with most of it going toward hiring new art teachers. That includes music, painting, theater and more. However, Prop 28 has no new taxes, meaning lawmakers will have to find the money to spend on art classes when they make the budget in the future.

What would Prop 28 do?

The measure would require the state to allocate at least 1% of Prop. 98 funding — money guaranteed for public schools and community colleges in the state budget — for music and arts education. That’s estimated to be a $1 billion annual set aside. Schools with high proportions of students from low-income households would get more funding. School districts will be required to spend 80% of the new funding on hiring arts and music instructors, and they will have to publish annual reports on how they spend the money.  

Why is it on the ballot?

State law requires instruction in visual and performing arts for grades 1-6. For grades 7-8, schools must offer arts classes either during or after school. High school students must take either a year of art, a foreign language or career and technical education to graduate. But most California high schools require students to take art to align with the admissions requirements for the California State University and University of California systems. 

But when school district budgets are cut during economic downturns, arts and music programs are often the first to be downsized. So former Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner said he launched the Prop. 28 campaign to turn the arts into a core subject along with math, science and reading.

He said the push for more arts education was inspired by conversations he had with educators during his time leading the state’s largest school district. Citing a 2021 study by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Beutner said giving students the space to express themselves creatively leads to a sense of belonging, which in turn helps them in math and reading.

“Math has rules. Grammar has rules. Art is unbounded,” Beutner said. “And if you think about preparing students for critical thinking, art isn’t just the sprinkles on an ice cream sundae. It’s an essential piece.”


For: Beutner, who donated more than $4 million to the campaign, and other supporters also say that arts and music instruction could help address the mental health crisis facing California’s youth as they recover from the pandemic. 

Along with Beutner, supporters include Sylvester Stallone and other Hollywood stars and musicians such as Anderson .Paak and Barbara Streisand. Prop. 28 also has strong support from teachers unions, as the arts funding is expected to generate jobs for educators.

Fender Musical Instruments donated more than $1 million to the campaign. Fender CEO Andy Mooney said the company has donated more than 10,000 guitars to Los Angeles Unified and hopes Prop. 28 will allow Fender to donate instruments to other districts.

Against: No official opposition filed

This is an abridged version of the full story, which is available at CALmatters.org—a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.  


California Ballot Prop 28 Explained: Spending on arts in public schools

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