Yes on Prop. 28. Arts education for kids is critical
This summer, Desert Sun reporter Jonathan Horwitz wrote a moving article about the retirement of longtime Palm Springs High School band and visual corps directors Brian and Beverley Ingelson. Under their auspices, Palm Springs High students performed around the world, including at the Sydney Opera House, Disneyland Paris, the Great Wall of China and the second inauguration parade for President Barack Obama. It’s amazing to see our local kids attaining the proficiency to perform at such places and have these world-expanding opportunities at such a young age.
Arts education has been shown time and time again to improve motivation, concentration, confidence and teamwork. It is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking and verbal skills. Palm Springs High is fortunate to have a strong performing arts program with robust community support. But not all schools in California, let alone our valley, are so lucky.
State law requires visual and performing arts instruction for grades 1-6. For grades 7-8, schools have to 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 many schools lack full-time arts instructors. The gaps, predictably, are bigger in schools that serve a large population of minority and poor kids.
Proposition 28 is an attempt to rectify that without any new taxes for Californians.
The measure would require California to allocate at least 1% of Prop. 98 funding — money already guaranteed for public schools and community colleges in the state budget — for music and arts education. Proponents of the measure say that’s about a $1 billion set aside each year. Schools with high concentrations of students from low-income households would get more money. School districts would have to spend 80% of the new funding on hiring arts and music instructors, and they would need to publish annual reports on how they spend the money.
We generally don’t like these kinds of state mandates. But even former Arkansas governor-turned-Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has said: “You’ll never have music and arts in the schools if you don’t mandate it, because what you mandate, you will fund — because you have to, it’s the law. You find the funding, because you have to.”
To be sure, arts education is not a red or blue issue. “The people who are the true innovators, the people who are Bill Gates and Steven Jobs and Steven Spielberg, the people who come up with the great next thing, these are the right-brained kids, the ones that sometimes gets shoved over in the corner, and they’re considered to be slow learners, nerds, not cooperative, they’re all of those things. But what they really are is they’re brilliant, and they’re thinking in a way that is different than the left-brain-dominant kids who think very logically and in a linear way,” Huckabee has noted. “Right-brain kids don’t think like that, but they’re the ones who create the magic things that we need. And if we bore them to death … what we’ll end up doing is we’ll see them drop out, and what a shame, what a loss — not to that kid, the loss to all of us.”
Proposition 28 does add some practical safeguards on budgeting; if California faces an economic downturn, the proposition allows the Legislature to reduce funding for arts education in a year when lawmakers provide less than the constitutional spending requirement. In this case, the reduction in funding for arts education could not be more than the percentage reduction in total funding to public schools and community colleges.
Proposition 28 is being spearheaded by former Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner, and the measure has drawn the support of big-name celebrities from Hollywood and the music industry.
We’d love to see these industry heavyweights do more than just make campaign donations to this cause. Perhaps if it passes, they could initiate some public-private partnerships that build true pipelines of creative superstars from our public schools to our artistic institutions and corporations that are such a key part of the California ethos and economy.
Yes on 28. It’s a shame we have to put such measures in place rather than doing the right thing to start with, but if this gets the job done, we support it.