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Funding art in public schools

 January 31, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, January 31st.>>>>

The push for guaranteed funding for arts in schoolsMore on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in San Diego county has gone down to 1210 - that’s a decrease of 16 people. That’s according to state figures released on sunday. The number of people in intensive care also decreased. On friday San Diego county public health officials reported more than 6,000 new covid-19 cases and 22 additional deaths. The county does not report COVID data on weekends.

The city of San Diego is facing a new legal challenge over its covid-19 vaccine mandate for city employees. The lawsuit was announced on friday, and it received public backing from a group of local police officers and firefighters. At a press conference on Friday the lawsuit was described as litigation filed in support of hundreds of city employees facing potential termination for noncompliance. The majority of the city’s first responders are vaccinated, but hundreds still are not. While dozens of advanced termination letters have gone out, no one has lost their job yet.. in fact the city says the majority of those who got the letters have since come into compliance.


If you felt some shaking yesterday, there was in fact a 4.0 magnitude earthquake about 3 miles southwest of Palomar mountain state park. According to the US Geological survey, the earthquake happened at 9:45am on Sunday and was felt all across San Diego from the north county to the international border. Escondido police and fire officials say there were no immediate reports of any damage.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

Signatures are being collected right now for a proposed state ballot measure that could guarantee funding for arts in public schools. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez tells us the effort could mean a huge transformation for students.

“so you’re working in orange, monochromatic, and blue? Yes!”

Max Swann is the art teacher at the Creative, Performing, Media Arts Middle School in known as simply C-P-M-A. It’s one of the San Diego Unified School District’s showcase campuses for theater, music, dance, and of course the studio art classes taught by Mr. Swann who started as a math teacher.

“I got a math credential and an art credential and quickly found out how much they overlapped and interconnected..and now I’m an art teacher.”

Swann is passionate about his art as he conveys comfort and confidence to his 6th, 7th, and 8th graders and his students with special needs. Right now the class is working on a group mural that will be displayed on campus. 13-year old Michael Clark had never tried art until this year. He’s a natural.

“you can express yourself in different ways with colors…like you can tell your mood in colors. You can see how your day is going and express it by doing art.”

This C-P-M-A art class is an example of creativity that has survived the COVID crisis and budget cuts. It’s also an exception. Even though the California Education Code mandates art, music, theatre and dance be offered to every student, less than one-in-five public schools today have a full-time arts and music teacher. Enter – former Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner who is now leading the group Californians for Arts and Music Education in Public Schools. Beutner calls this his ‘passion project’ to collect a million signatures by May 1st and get an arts funding measure on the November ballot. He wants to bring equity to the show business state…

“we are that creative capital not just for America but really for the world…and that dichotomy between a robust creative industry and public schools that just don’t offer that same opportunity is what we are trying to address.”

Beutner and his organizers are proposing voters direct the legislature to use at least 8-hundred million dollars if there’s a state budget surplus to exclusively pay for arts programs in every public school with no option to defer the money elsewhere. It’s a radical idea with some radical supporters.

“You may know me as an actor but when I was a teenager, I wanted to be an artist.”

Voice sound familiar? He is Emmy and Tony Award winning actor John Lithgow. He is also now the “face” of the California ballot measure to save the arts. He’s pushing for signatures and will be pounding the pavement for votes …”when” he says…the measure makes it on the ballot

“This is a time of tremendous divisiveness and political turmoil…everyone is hot headed on the subject of political issues but the arts bring people together in all sorts of ways.”

“use your good powerful voice…and..GO! ‘I can’t go to school today!”

Back at C-P-M-A middle school Cathy Hickman’s intro to theatre class is hard at work on acting out lyric poems. She’s been the theater teacher at this school for 20-years. She says she’s happily put in much of her own money to support her students and hopes California voters will direct the state to do the same in November.

“It would be nice to get help in order to serve the community the way it deserves to be served, with all the proper resources, things for building sets, all the technology and to make sure things are upgraded in an appropriate way.”

Paid signature gatherers are being used at grocery stores. There will also be collection events for signatures at public venues soon…and then there are the classrooms. Ballot organizers are depending on teachers, administrators and parents to spread the word and deliver their signatures to the effort that could just bring more supplies and create more opportunities for teachers like Max Swann.

“now I’m developing beginning, intermediate, and advanced at our it’s only growing and students are more interested and we’re seeing more art on campus.”

It’s a picture perfect possibility dependent on a million signatures to support the next generation of artists. MGP KPBS News


A new state law in California is requiring food scraps to be composted, rather than put in landfills. kpbs science and technology reporter thomas fudge says the benefits are many but capacity is falling short.

Jessica Toth opens a composting bin at the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, where she is executive director. For years, the center has been doing what state law now requires cities and counties to do. She says the new state law will make a big difference.

“It was a kick in the seat of the pants that we really needed as a region to address the shortage we have in the capacity for managing our food waste.”

Rotting food in landfills produces about 20 percent of California’s methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. But San Diego county is a long way from having the infrastructure to compost the half million tons of food waste a year it creates. Ken Prue, with the San Diego environmental services department, says the city will roll out its expanded program this summer, with 9 million dollars from the city budget.

“It allowed us to do key initial steps for implementation. To be able to move forward with the hiring of 40 drivers and buying 43 collection trucks and moving forward with all the containers.”

Jessica Toth says the San Diego region now has the capacity to compost only 30 percent of its total food waste. Thomas Fudge, KPBS news.


Nearly half of Californians have postponed addressing a health issue in the past twelve months because of cost. that’s according to the latest annual poll by the california health care foundation. kqed’s tara sighler has more.


Coming up.... This month an indigenous woman was found not guilty for federal charges she faced for protesting border wall construction. She was acquitted on religious freedom grounds.

“I think it’s very significant that this law that was created and has been used by the conservative right is protecting progressive activists too.”

Legal analysts say it's an unexpected victory for Native American religious freedoms. That’s next, just after the break.

This month an Indigenous woman facing federal charges for blocking border wall construction in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was found not guilty. The verdict was hailed as an unexpected victory for Native American religious freedoms.

From the Fronteras Desk in Tucson, KJZZ’s Alisa Reznick has more.

AR: Amber Ortega was facing federal misdemeanor charges for entering and refusing to leave a closed area where workers were building former President Trump’s wall along the U.S. Mexico border in 2020.<>16 months and two hearings after that day, she was found not guilty at the federal courthouse in Tucson. Supporters like Tohono O’odham traditional healer Mary Garcia were in tears.

GARCIA: Please please please understand, we’re still here, we’re still here, and this is what it takes.AR: Like Garcia, Ortega is a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation and is also Hia C-ed O’odham. In court, she testified she was spiritually called to the construction line to protect Quitobaquito Springs — a sacred site in Organ Pipe where her relatives are buried.

Federal Magistrate Judge Leslie Bowman ruled that in prosecuting her, the government had violated her ability to practice her faith. Garcia says it felt like recognition of a longer battle.

GARCIA: We’re still fighting for our religions, we’re still fighting for our freedom to pray and go out. We’re standing on O’odham land, this used to be a village.

AR: Ortega’s defense hinged on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — or RiFRA — a 1993 federal statute that allows people to challenge laws that violate their religion. Paul Bender — a law professor at Arizona State University — says it requires the government to prove that enforcing that law is still necessary.

BENDER: RFRA’s intention was to say hey, even though you have a rule that you’re applying generally, you can’t use that in a way that burdens somebody’s freedom of religion, unless you have a really good excuse for doing that.

AR: Bender says RFRA was forged especially to protect minority religions.

But over the years, it’s also helped the retail chain Hobby Lobby successfully avoid paying for contraceptives for its female employees as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this month, it came up again, when a group of Navy SEALS argued the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate violated their religious freedom.

Ortega’s attorney Amy Knight says that’s what makes her case unique.

KNIGHT: I think it’s very significant that this law that was created and has been used by the conservative right is protecting progressive activists too.

AR: A few years ago, Knight successfully used RFRA to defend a group of humanitarian aid volunteers facing charges for leaving food and water out for migrants crossing the Arizona borderland.

KNIGHT: We’re getting some religious freedom protection for acts that people are taking as an exercise of religion, not just for prayer or particular ritual.

AR: But Robert Miller — a tribal law professor at ASU who is a member of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma — says cases involving Indigenous religious freedom faced hurdles even before RFRA existed, because of a ruling called the Lyng decision.

MILLER: So the Lyng case is seen as really bad news for tribal, religious practices.

AR: It was a landmark case where a group of tribes tried to prevent the government from building a road through a portion of the Six Rivers National Forest where religious ceremonies took place.

The Supreme Court ruled in the government’s favor, arguing one group’s religion could not interfere with a government activity.

MILLER: That’s the problem, when we don’t own the lands anymore, I mean, when it’s federal land, it’s hard to protect religious practices and sacred sites.

AR: Miller says that same idea became the benchmark in other cases — like the Navajo Nation’s fight against snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff.

Both decisions were also brought up by the government prosecutors in Ortega’s case — who argued the government has the right to do whatever it wants on the land it owns. But Judge Bowman ruled that the government substantially burdened Ortega’s freedom of religion AND did not have a compelling reason to do so.

Miller says it’s a surprising and hopeful victory.

MILLER: For her and for Indian Country and for Indian religious practices. The question will be if any court in the future adopts similar types of analysis.

AR: In a response to the verdict, government prosecutors said they respect the ruling and will continue to advocate for safe and lawful protest. A Department of Justice spokesperson said the office would not pursue a new case against her.

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

The California Education Code mandates art, music, theatre and dance be offered to every student, yet less than one-in-five public schools today have a full-time arts and music teacher. That could change with a proposed state ballot measure that would guarantee funding for arts in public schools. Meanwhile, a new state law requires that all food waste be composted rather than sent to landfills. A composting specialist calls the new law a much needed "kick in the pants" for cities and counties that have not been doing this in the past. Plus, in what many are calling a surprise victory, an Indigenous woman was found not guilty on federal charges of blocking border wall construction in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.