Funding for arts education in California increased significantly. Is it a bit wasted?

In short

Voters passed Proposition 28, which seeks to expand arts education in California schools. Some plan to pay for existing positions, which supporters of the plan say defeats its intent.

Thanks to Proposition 28, California’s K-12 schools received nearly $1 billion in new arts funding. But a coalition of nearly 100 arts groups says some school districts may be wasting the money and exacerbating longstanding inequities in arts education.

“The purpose of Proposition 28 is to get more arts in schools,” said Abe Flores, deputy director of policy and programs at Create CA, which advocates for arts education in California. “We’re concerned that this isn’t happening everywhere. If people find out, for example, that one school offers math and another doesn’t, they’ll be angry. That’s what’s happening in the arts world.

Proposition 28, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2022, requires schools to spend an additional 1% of their annual budget on visual arts, theatre, dance, music or media arts. The windfall comes after decades of underfunding left many students with little or no arts education unless parents donated money to cover costs. When the measure passed, only one in five schools had a full-time art or music teacher, with low-income schools more likely to be affected.

Schools are supposed to spend 80 percent of their money on staff and 20 percent on materials, and report annually to the California Department of Education on how they spend their money.

But Flores said that because of budget uncertainty — driven in part by the end of federal pandemic relief funds — some school districts are considering accounting maneuvers that undermine the intent of the program. Proposition 28 requires schools to expand arts programs, but some districts are planning to use funds to pay for existing positions and programs and reallocate additional funds elsewhere, which the coalition says violates the initiative’s “clear and plain language.” .

“Pillar. Decree 28 mandates that schools expand arts programs,” Flores said. “It doesn’t say they can backfill. That’s clear.

The coalition is asking the state to require school districts to prove they have hired more arts teachers and develop future spending plans. They also want more community input and transparency, since currently the state does not require schools to release their Proposition 28 spending plans or involve families or communities in planning efforts.

Education Department spokesperson Elizabeth Sanders said independent auditors will review schools’ Proposition 28 spending and if auditors find schools misused funds, they risk losing state funding.

“We are aware of the allegations of misuse of Proposition 28 funds and we take any misuse of state funds very seriously,” Sanders said. “We are not replacing the independent audit process, but we do want to ensure that as much as possible is shared resources so that school districts can comply with the law.”

The state is hosting webinars, convening advisory committees and posting messages online to help districts navigate the new funding.

What if the school already has a strong arts education program?

Modoc Joint Unified in northeastern California is one of the districts struggling to meet Proposition 28 spending requirements. In fact, not a dime of the district’s $134,000 grant has been spent, in part because the district already has a strong arts program, Superintendent Tom O’Malley said. The school district has 800 students, with a full-time music teacher in the elementary school and a dozen arts programs in the high school, including jazz and concert band, choir, ceramics, printmaking and advanced placement art classes. Drama instruction is provided by local community theaters. Half of high school students take some kind of art class.

But O’Malley said hiring art teachers is nearly impossible, even if they are needed. The district, located in the High Plains 146 miles from the nearest city, is already struggling to fill teacher vacancies. The elementary school opened with seven teacher positions (out of 24 in total) and was unable to open a transitional kindergarten class this year because there were no teachers.

At the same time, some school buildings are nearly a century old and are in urgent need of repairs and upgrades.

“It’s great that voters are willing to help, and I’m grateful for the funding, but it would be great if we could spend the money on things we really need,” O’Malley said. “Right now, the money is It’s very frustrating to put it out there when we have all these other needs.”

The district applied for a waiver to give it flexibility to spend the money. Sanders said the state has received several waiver requests and staff is reviewing them.

For districts like Modoc, Flores suggested staff focus on gaps in arts programming — such as dance or media arts — and use Prop. 28 funds to hire teachers or connect with local teachers in those disciplines. Cooperation with art groups. He also suggested they examine whether specific student groups, such as English learners, are underrepresented in arts programs and expand programs that target their interests.

One question that confuses parents is why some schools within a district may receive more Proposition 28 funding than others. Proposition 28 funds are allocated based on enrollment and student financial need, so schools with more low-income students receive more funding. Los Angeles Unified, for example, distributed $77 million in arts funding under Proposition 28 to more than 1,000 schools, but that varies widely from school to school.

“Due to the diversity of our schools and their respective school budgets, each school’s Proposition 28 funding may fluctuate from one year to the next,” according to the Los Angeles Unified Fact Sheet on Proposition 28.

“For example, if people find out that one school offers math courses and another school doesn’t, they get angry. That’s what’s happening in the art world.

Abe Flores, Associate Director of Policy and Programs at Create CA

Santa Cruz County schools have some of the most comprehensive arts programs in the state and are using Proposition 28 funding to further expand arts programs. The Santa Cruz County Arts Council plays a key role: hiring local artists to teach, helping artists obtain teaching certifications, building partnerships between schools and arts groups, and helping districts develop long-term arts plans.

Research shows that arts education improves students’ academic performance, attendance and college enrollment, and increases students’ empathy for others. But the key is creating an arts program that is part of a broader plan, meets state standards, offers plenty of options and reflects a variety of cultures, said Sarah Brothers, the board’s education director.

In Santa Cruz County, these include ukulele classes at alternative high schools, embossed (embossed tin) and confetti Projects such as Day of the Dead altar (paper flag) project and middle school environmental mural.

The committee also works to promote the arts.

“There’s often a gap between arts education and kids seeing the arts as a viable career path,” Brother said. “But California is the largest creative economy in the world. There are many, many great jobs in the arts. You can make money. You can have a successful career. We work hard to make sure students know that.

twerk’s arts education grant

In Watsonville, hip-hop dance parties are held daily in the multipurpose room at Radcliffe Elementary School. Under the direction of Luis Sanchez, students performed cartwheels and headstands, stomped and jumped, twirled and twirled, kicked and jumped, and laughed to the upbeat dance music. Some are carefully designed, some are freewheeling, and all of them are fun.

Sanchez’s class, funded by Proposition 28, is one of several hip-hop classes in Pajaro Valley Unified. The agricultural area in the southern part of the county has 15,000 students.

Luis Sanchez teaches a hip-hop dance class to second grade students at Radcliff Elementary School in Watsonville on May 21, 2024.

“This is awesome,” said kindergarten teacher Leigh Klein. “They’re doing better academically because they can focus more. But they’re also doing better emotionally — they’re learning to express themselves, take risks. They can get out of trouble. … When they see it on the schedule “Hip-hop,” they all say, “Yeah! “”

With a gentle demeanor and a smile on his face, Sanchez taught the students dance moves such as tut-tut, snap, and crack, as well as the stories behind the moves. For example, “Tutting” refers to the angular arm movements seen on images of Tutankhamun.

In a recent kindergarten class, students followed his every move and then added their own improvisations. As classmates clapped to the music, some jumped in a circle and did backbends. Others practice their footwork. Two girls holding hands and spinning. Sometimes Sanchez would line them up to learn new moves. When Sanchez played “Cha Cha Slide,” students erupted in cheers.

The program has also been a boon for Sanchez. Sanchez, a Watsonville native, became fascinated with dance as a child in the 1990s, watching his uncle and friends breakdance on cardboard in the parking lot of an apartment complex. He later took up hip-hop dancing himself and found a tight-knit community in Watsonville, Gilroy and San Jose.

On May 21, 2024, second grade students at Radcliffe Elementary School in Watsonville participated in a hip-hop dance class.
On May 21, 2024, second grade students at Radcliffe Elementary School in Watsonville participated in a hip-hop dance class.

As a student at Cabrillo Community College in Aptos, Sanchez helped his dance teacher with classes and then began teaching dance at local teen centers and after-school programs. He always dreamed of making a living as a dancer, but always had to work a side job at Target or FedEx to make ends meet. Obtaining a teaching certificate may seem out of reach.

Then, with the passage of Proposition 28, the position of a full-time dance instructor became available.

“Dance means a lot to me, it opens a lot of doors, shows me different cultures, shows me the big world out there,” Sanchez said. “Now I can share this with my kids. I never thought I could make a living doing what I love, but here I am.

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