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Education

Voters approve arts education funding for every public school in the state

There was a huge victory for education on Tuesday: With the overwhelming approval of Proposition 28, California will now lead the nation in funding for the arts in every classroom.

According to organizers of the arts funding campaign, only one in five public schools across the state have a full-time art or music program.

The passage of the proposition guarantees as much as $1 billion every school year for arts education taken from the state budget without raising taxes.

“This amount of money is incredibly historic. The eyes of the nation are on us,” said Russ Sperling, director of Visual and Performing Arts in the San Diego Unified School District. He estimates his district will get an additional $15 million every year.

“From a district office or a state perspective, we’re not saying 'you have to offer this class.' We’re saying to the principals and the communities: 'what arts do you want to see at your school?' And that should be in response to what the community wants,” Sperling said.

In other words, the new state funding for every arts and music program will be tailored to the specific needs of each public school. The allocated money cannot be spent on anything else.

Austin Beutner, who has served as Los Angeles Unified superintendent and CalArts board chair, led a coalition of educators, entrepreneurs and arts and music leaders in support of Proposition 28. He also got support from major players in the entertainment industry.

“Arts are the glue which brings together literacy, math and critical-thinking skills to help students succeed in school and in life,” Beutner said in a statement Wednesday. “Prop. 28 will make sure every student from preschool to 12th grade will have the opportunity to participate in arts and music at school.”

San Diego voters also approved Measure U on the ballot. The measure involves a $3.2 billion bond that will be spent on building new schools and improving older campuses across San Diego Unified.

Part of that money will also be spent at the district’s administration property in University Heights. Within the next three years, central offices are being moved to Kearny Mesa. The campus on Normal Street will be repurposed into a kind of educator's village. The plan includes 500 units of affordable housing for employees who need it.

“Primarily for people who are youngest in the teaching profession. Or, new custodians or new bus drivers who are coming into the district who have such a difficult time being able to afford to live in San Diego,” said Richard Barrera, San Diego Unified School board trustee.

The victories for education this election come after intense campaigning that — in the case of the arts funding proposition — included some big names in entertainment.

Tony-nominated and Emmy award-winning actress Sheryl Lee Ralph was one of them. She celebrated the approval of the funding and the future success of California students who will now have access to music, theater, dance, painting, and other contemporary arts.

“If that’s what we get to teach them, maybe one of them will write the new 'Hamilton' musical. Come on! I see great things coming out of this vote and I am excited,” Ralph said.

Voters approve arts education funding for every public school in the state

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