Amid looming economic uncertainty and fears of recession, the governor has proposed cutting $1.2 billion of one-time discretionary funding for arts and instructional materials in his pared-back 2023-24 state budget, which responds to a projected $22.5 billion budget shortfall. However, the loss of that block grant money can be largely offset with the nearly $1 billion earmarked for arts education through Proposition 28, many arts advocates say, softening the blow.
A game-changing piece of arts education legislation, Proposition 28, passed last fall, sets aside money in the state’s general fund to give school districts additional funding — about 1% of the total state and federal money they receive under the Local Control Funding Formula — for arts education. For districts with at least 500 students, the initiative requires that 80% of the funds go to hiring teachers and 20% to training and supplies, such as musical instruments.
“We see this as a long game, and Proposition 28 is ongoing funding, not a one-time grant. That’s the most important thing for us,” said Tom DeCaigny, executive director of Create CA, an arts advocacy group. “It’s a historic moment for anybody who is excited about creativity and public education.”
The impact of cutting the block grants is also blunted because the funds were entirely discretionary, which means that despite having “arts and music” in the name, they were actually designed to be used for a variety of needs, including health care and pension administration. That’s why many suggest the effect on student-focused arts education may be minimal.
“We were frustrated that this funding was designed to be completely discretionary,” said Adonai Mack, senior director of education at Children Now, a research and advocacy organization focused on children’s welfare in California, “meaning that this block of funding was never meant to be strictly for arts, music, instructional materials.”
However, others point out that some momentum may be lost at a time when districts are already scrambling with crippling staff shortages, dire learning gaps, and pressing student well-being issues.
“It’s still disruptive for many districts, given that they are pretty far along in their budget planning cycle for the next year,” said Troy Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association. “They will have funded a number of critical programs and services using this block grant, so they’ll have to go back to the drawing board now.”
The proposed cutbacks come even as many are championing arts education as a way to help students bounce back from the stresses of the pandemic. That need remains keen, arts advocates say, but many are optimistic that Proposition 28 will fit the bill.
“The passage of Prop. 28 proves that providing access to arts education is a priority for California voters,” said Julie Baker, executive director of California Arts Advocates. “We recognize that the budget picture has changed this year, but the needs for youth to heal and grow from the impacts of the pandemic and other traumas have not, and so we strongly encourage the budget to include ongoing investments in access to arts and culture programs for all Californians.”
Once considered a cornerstone of any comprehensive education, the arts have long been scrubbed in California classrooms in favor of math and science. But the pandemic exposed the urgent need to help children cope with trauma and find ways to heal, experts say, amid what many see an escalating youth mental health crisis.
“The pandemic has taught us a lot about all the things the arts offer in terms of social-emotional well-being and student mental health,” said DeCaigny. “If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that there needs to be some joy in our lives, and we’ve always known that the arts provide that.”
Arts advocates also point to the power of the arts to boost student achievement. Despite the fact that students with access to the arts are five times less likely to drop out of school and three times more likely to receive a bachelor’s degree, nine out of 10 California schools, research shows, fail to meet the state mandate to provide arts education in schools. This is an equity issue, experts say, because it’s generally only affluent students who receive ongoing exposure to the arts.
Building student engagement may also be crucial to combating learning loss, many suggest, as students struggle to rebound from the academic setbacks triggered by the pandemic.
“Providing exposure to the visual, digital and performing arts is sometimes the key that keeps children engaged in the classroom and focused on learning,” said Mack. “In the hands of highly qualified and innovative educators, they can use arts to convey a variety of curriculum content. I have personally seen this utilized in both my children’s and grandchildren’s classrooms that have them excited about what they have learned and looking forward to coming back the next day.”
Many arts advocates view the overwhelming public support for Proposition 28, which passed in November with 64% voter approval in a highly polarized election, as a sign that most Californians appreciate the power of the arts to spark learning.
“There’s nothing like it in the country as far as we know,” said DeCaigny. “We’re thrilled about it. We could never have imagined such a significant win for arts education.”
The initiative also had the backing of California’s prominent entertainment industry, with celebrity supporters including Dr. Dre, Quincy Jones, Katy Perry and a slew of other performers. It should also be noted that the state’s arts and entertainment industry represents a $300 billion sector with more than 2.6 million jobs.
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marco 2 months ago2 months ago
Can EdSource please be a little less credulous and naive in parroting the arts-advocates' story about how more arts education will boost all aspects of underachieving students' outcomes to incredible degrees? The "study" linked in this article -- presented as source of the claim that arts reduce drop-out by 5X and boost college graduation by 3X -- in fact is very careful to say that it could look only at correlation and not causation and … Read More
Can EdSource please be a little less credulous and naive in parroting the arts-advocates’ story about how more arts education will boost all aspects of underachieving students’ outcomes to incredible degrees? The “study” linked in this article — presented as source of the claim that arts reduce drop-out by 5X and boost college graduation by 3X — in fact is very careful to say that it could look only at correlation and not causation and that its findings “do not support a cause-and-effect relationship between arts involvement, on the one hand, and academic or civic achievements on the other” because researchers were unable to “control for a wide array of individual and social variables that are not captured by the databases under review”
M Gallagher 2 months ago2 months ago
The discretionary funding the Governor has proposed cutting is really not arts funding at all. It's discretionary funding, so comparing it to the Prop 28 revenue is truly like comparing apples and oranges. Prop 28 must be spent on arts and music personnel, and individual principals have broad discretion over the spending. It's not likely that many districts earmarked the one time discretionary dollars for personnel. Hopefully the legislature and the … Read More
The discretionary funding the Governor has proposed cutting is really not arts funding at all. It’s discretionary funding, so comparing it to the Prop 28 revenue is truly like comparing apples and oranges. Prop 28 must be spent on arts and music personnel, and individual principals have broad discretion over the spending. It’s not likely that many districts earmarked the one time discretionary dollars for personnel.
Hopefully the legislature and the governor will soon see how different these funding sources are, and hopefully the media will help clarify this confusion.
Tim Taylor 2 months ago2 months ago
Karen, THANKS for this article. I sent this to the CA Arts Council who is appointed by our Governor. Jonathan Moscone and Kayla Ungar, I am really disappointed the Governor decided to cut $1.2 billion from the Arts funding in his 23-24 budget. Actually, depressed about that decision! The voters approved Prop 28 (thanks to you) and those are parents who gave us a message: they want arts for all children. Cutting the arts … Read More
Karen, THANKS for this article. I sent this to the CA Arts Council who is appointed by our Governor.
Jonathan Moscone and Kayla Ungar,
I am really disappointed the Governor decided to cut $1.2 billion from the Arts funding in his 23-24 budget. Actually, depressed about that decision! The voters approved Prop 28 (thanks to you) and those are parents who gave us a message: they want arts for all children. Cutting the arts funding will hurt schools, especially schools in rural areas because all students qualified for that funding. That $1.2 billion is critical for our schools who utilize the arts to help children grow, heal from their trauma and become more successful students.
Our Governor is the champion of the arts, and our goal is to turn that decision around.
You have 11 board members 10 who reside in urban/suburban areas. Love seeing Gerald on your board, but I am perplexed why you don’t have at least 2-3 council members from Rural and Small Town CA? The selected board members reside in areas with a wealth of art options.
Lastly, would love to see your council continue to support urban community art initiatives and programs partnering with rural schools/communities that some of your funded programs are doing. Let me know who I can talk to on staff to expand that to more communities.
Please call me at your earliest convenience and let me know how we can support your work in our communities throughout California.