Politicians – usually conservative ones – love to talk tough on education issues, saying things like, “We need to get back to the basics – reading, writing, and math!” This continues to be true, and is perhaps growing worse, the longer the country remains so bitterly divided and is in constant cultural warfare. We already know the Republican Party is retreating from any support of truthful science, and we’re fairly terrified of exactly what kind of science will be taught going forward in solidly red/conservative states. But that’s not what’s on the ballot with Proposition 28, which is an effort to increase arts and music education programs that were on the chopping block well before debates over climate change or COVID-19.

We support Proposition 28, and encourage all Westsiders to vote Yes. Why? It’s simple: music education supports brain development and spatial reasoning, pairing particularly well with math. Arts education supports reading comprehension and an empathetic soul. Both are also shown to improve student mood and school attendance, as kids who fall in love with arts and music never want to be away from their fellow artists, band mates, or scene partners. So, Mr. “Reading, Writing, and Math.” Want students to grow and be better than proficient in those subjects? Support arts and music education.

Further, we’re clearly lacking at teaching arts and music to most California students. Prop 28’s supporters cite an independent study that argues:

  • 90 percent of elementary schools fail to provide a high-quality course of study across arts disciplines
  • 96 percent of middle schools fail to provide a high-quality course of study across arts disciplines
  • 72 percent of high schools fail to provide a high-quality course of study across arts disciplines

With these numbers, who’s even getting to high school interested in arts and music? Likely the wealthiest students in the wealthiest districts who also benefit from private coaches and tutors outside of school hours.

In addition, the staggering lack of arts and music offerings tend to propel arguments against additional funding, rather than shine a blaring light on the fact they are needed. Once education funding is cut in general, an argument always seems to arise that arts and music should be cut before other core subjects. Their in-house lobby is already too small.

Proposition 28 will work like this:

  • Each year, a dedicated source of funding will be established specifically for arts and music in public and charter schools
    • The intent is for this to increase and stabilize each year until funding is sufficient throughout California schools of every means
    • Funding will be particularly increased for school districts serving low-income children
    • The money won’t come from the state’s Proposition 98 base level of funding for schools, but from the state General Fund on top of 98 funding levels
    • No new tax, or increase in an existing tax, is involved
  • The music must be set aside for arts and music teachers and classified personal dedicated to arts and music
  • For accountability purposes, schools will be required to post annual reports on what programming was provided and how many students participated

So the state would have to take $1 Billion it would be spending on something outside of education specifically on arts and music education? Yes. Is this “ballot box budgeting?” Yes. But this time, we don’t care. We believe the state legislature can find $1 Billion a year to get this done, and further, that they should. It’s high time these programs get the support they always seem to lack. In fact, some may think $1 Billion for an entire state remains inadequate. It may be. But Prop 28 is the start we need.

So, California, let’s paint our students a picture of support. Let’s que the music for the middle school band. Let’s close the curtain on years of dramatic soliloquys cursing the lack of public funding for arts and music education. And yes, we know that was laying it on a little thick. Still …Vote Yes on 28.

Photo/Image Credit to DLeonis

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