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North County theater leads signature collection effort for arts and music education

More supporters have joined the effort to guarantee arts and music education in every public school. It’s a proposal trying to make it on the California ballot this November. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez has the update.

Under the neon marquee of the historic Star Theatre Company in Oceanside last weekend, theatergoers picked up their tickets for a show and signed a petition. The petition is the first step in a proposal to guarantee arts and music education in every California public school.

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Supporters have written a measure they hope to get on the November ballot. Californians for Arts and Music Education in Public Schools is the group behind the idea calling for $800 million of the state’s annual education budget to be guaranteed, with no loophole that would divert the funding from arts education.

It is an extraordinary proposal. The ballot group needs as many as 1 million signatures for it to go before California voters this fall.

David Schulz is Artistic Director of the Star Theatre. He also directed the company’s current production of "The Play That Goes Wrong," now running through Sunday.

“I’ve had a high school football quarterback and even the prom queen perform on our stage. This is a theater for every member of the community and most importantly for young artists who call themselves ‘theater kids,’” Schulz said. “If they get those arts programs in schools, they can get involved here at the Star Theatre after school or during the summer and hone their craft and take it to another level.”

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M.G. Perez
Holly Shockley helps collect signatures in the lobby before a performance. She is a cast member in THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG now running at the Star Theatre. She is also a special needs paraeducator, Oceanside, CA, February 12, 2022

Even though the California Education Code mandates art education be offered to every student, less than 1 in 5 public schools today have a full-time arts and music teacher. The ballot measure has the backing of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, presenters of the iconic Oscars awarded to the best creatives in film.

The Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor John Lithgow has also given his support. He said, “self-expression is joy for a kid to get a sense of himself or herself through just the creative act. I mean, that’s what we are talking about.”

This week, the ballot campaign launched signature collection locations at schools in the Los Angeles area. They are also looking for support here in San Diego County. The Star Theatre Company hopes others will follow their lead in supporting the next generation of artists.

North county theatre leads signature connection effort for arts and music education

Holly Shockley is a cast member in the Star Theatre’s current comedy, and at Saturday night’s performance she was in the lobby collecting signatures, too. Her day job is as a special needs paraeducator. She said she welcomes the proposal. “I always grew up with a love for the arts and it was always on the chopping block," she said. "So, it’s great to have money earmarked for our schools to cultivate this love and passion that ultimately breeds better communicators and better community leaders.”

Signatures will be collected at the remaining performances of the production. Details can be found at www.startheatreco.com

For more information on the ballot proposal visit www.voteartsandminds.org