All children deserve arts and music programs in schools, that’s why Prop. 28 should be approved

No education is complete without arts and music. It’s not just an extracurricular; study after study shows arts education increases a child’s motor skills and spatial reasoning, improves performance and confidence, and benefits mental health. These benefits should not be determined by a student’s socio-economic status; they are for everyone, proving that an education rich in arts and music is a great equalizer for students in low-income and at-risk communities.

But in California, only 1 in 5 public schools have a full-time arts or music program; 88% of California schools fail to provide the arts and music education required by law. That compares to other states with more education funding. For example, 3 in 4 public schools in New York City have at least one full-time arts teacher.

Low-income students of color are most impacted in our state. Black and Latinx students comprise 61% of Pre-K-12 enrollment in California, 77% in low-income communities. Our kids deserve better.

This is why Arts for LA strongly supports Proposition 28, which will give millions of California students access to the arts and music education they so desperately need. Dedicating more than $900 million to arts and music, every student in a California PreK-12 public school will have an education complete with arts and music, all without raising taxes.

The initiative requires 100% of the additional school funds to be used for arts and music education, with at least 80% on hiring teachers and aides. The funding can also help with staff training, supplies, materials, and educational partnerships with arts and community organizations.

But Proposition 28 is more than just additional funding. It’s intentional funding, as well. This measure will increase access and equity by providing increased resources to all schools as well as additional amounts to schools which serve students from families who are struggling to get by, particularly students of color.

I can point to my personal experience as an example. Growing up in a primarily Spanish-speaking home, I was an English language learner when attending kindergarten at Cahuenga Elementary School. School was difficult and sometimes lonely. But art and music education, both in and out of the classroom, was the only time I felt confident and connected to the other students in the classroom, despite my language barrier.

I am not alone in this experience. It is estimated that Los Angeles Unified School District educates about 120,000 English learners, or 20% of its students. In the spring of 2020, fewer than half of English learners in middle and high school participated in distance learning each week. Investments in art and music education, like Prop 28, will help students connect with one another and to their educational curriculum, just like it helped me.

Not only is it imperative for development and connection, but it is also crucial to provide equitable opportunities to our students and secure the future economy of our state. One in 6 jobs in Los Angeles are creative industry jobs and it is even more urgent and critical that low-income students be provided this legally required education that has such a high probability of becoming their economic livelihood in Los Angeles.

Because this is more than just another class. The benefits of an arts education extend beyond the classroom, helping reduce negative behavior and prevent behavior conditions in youth who come from historically disadvantaged communities. Among children specifically identified as at risk, music has been found to reduce anxiety, depression, emotional alienation, truancy and aggression, as well as increasing school attendance, self-esteem, cultural empathy, confidence, personal empowerment and healthy nutrition. Students from low-income backgrounds with an arts education are less likely to drop out of school, more likely to receive a research degree, and more inclined to pursue a professional career.

Proposition 28 would ensure all California students, regardless of background or economic status, have access to an arts education. This November, support our students by voting yes on Proposition 28.

Gustavo Herrera was appointed as Arts for LA’s chief executive officer in December 2018. Arts for LA campaigns to increase public funding for arts and culture, works to increase access to arts education for public school students, and builds public will to support the arts. Gustavo also serves on the Policy Council of the Create CA, the largest coalition in California fighting for equitable and accessible arts education, and he is vice president of California Arts Advocates.