Proposition 28 boosts art, music programs at San Marcos schools

SAN MARCOS — It’s a good time for students interested in art, music and dance in the San Marcos Unified School District, as local schools will benefit from new state funding under Proposition 28.

This year marks the first time schools will receive additional funding since voters passed Proposition 28, the School Arts and Music Funding Assurance and Accountability Act, in the 2022 election.

For the 2023-24 school year, San Marcos Unified Schools received a $2.7 million state grant that will allow the district to hire dozens of new full-time equivalent teachers to teach music, dance, drama, ceramics and other visual arts, and digital media. suject.

Matt Armstrong, the district’s visual and performing arts coordinator, described the impact of the funds at the school board’s Jan. 11 meeting.

“When I received this message, I was speechless. Such money, such dedication to art – I was completely speechless. I know this money, in the long run, is not a lot, but for us , it’s definitely a game changer,” Armstrong said.

The total annual funds must be used within three years, with 80% used for qualified and classified employees, 19% for professional learning and supplies, and 1% for administrative expenses. Allocation amounts are expected to be roughly the same in future years to allow the district to maintain newly hired positions.

The Mission Hills High School Band performed in June 2021 with COVID-19 safety precautions in place. funding.
The Mission Hills High School Band performed in June 2021 with COVID-19 safety precautions in place. funding.

For individual schools, Mission Hills High School and San Marcos High School received approximately $419,000 and $461,000, respectively, to support various arts and music programs. Armstrong said smaller Twin Oaks High School received more than $37,000, part of which will go toward a new kiln for the ceramics program.

The grant amounts for each of the district’s 10 elementary schools range from $88,000 to $155,000, depending on location. While funding for foundational arts has been unstable over the past few years due to budget cuts, these Proposition 28 funds add stability to areas like theater and music.

“Historically, we’ve given way to other core themes,” Armstrong said. “It’s great that we can now run our essential programs without worrying about them being obsolete.”

However, visual arts in particular remains a “glaring omission” in primary schools. Armstrong said he hopes to address the issue by securing additional funding and relaunching an arts enrichment program that integrates visual arts into other subjects.

At local high schools, funding ranges from approximately $147,000 to $180,000 per site. Armstrong said the district is looking at ways to share visual and performing arts teachers among schools, noting that hiring full-time teachers for every middle school is impractical.

This is partly due to the current high school curriculum allowing students to take only one elective per year.

“As we look at the middle school redesign, part of that process is the types of classes we hope to be able to add, but that will be directly dependent on the schedule we have for the middle school,” said Vice Principal Tiffany Campbell.

Mission Hills High School students combined dance and instrumental performances in February 2020.
Mission Hills High School students combined dance and instrumental performances in February 2020.

Board members expressed excitement about the new funding and the opportunities it will provide students.

“I feel like art, theater and music save lives. It really does, it makes you feel included, seen and heard,” said board president Carlos Ulloa.

Trustee Stacy Carlson expressed concern that some schools, such as San Elijo and Double Peak, have more visual and performing arts resources than others and wondered if Some schools receive more resources.

Armstrong noted that many of these resources are part of parent-teacher organization after-school programs and that Prop. 28 funds can only be used for in-school programs.

Looking ahead, the district is already planning for visual and performing arts needs for the 2024-25 school year in anticipation of the next round of Proposition 28 funding. Armstrong said he is focused on creating a program that will continue to grow and endure.

“I want to make sure we don’t put things in an unsustainable place,” Armstrong said. “I’m very excited about how this is going.”

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