California initiative to require additional funding for K-12 art and music education qualifies for the ballot

On June 8, the California Secretary of State announced that an initiative to require additional funding for K-12 art and music education had qualified for the ballot. Californians for Arts and Music Education in Public Schools, the campaign sponsoring the initiative, submitted 1,030,221 signatures for verification in April. Counties conducted a random sample, and the secretary of state reported that 711,872 signatures were valid.

To qualify for the ballot, the campaign needed to submit 623,212 valid signatures, which is equal to 5% of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election.

The proposed law would require a minimum source of annual funding for K-12 public schools, including charter schools, to fund arts education programs. The annual minimum amount established by the law would be equal to, at minimum, 1% of the total state and local revenues that local education agencies received under Proposition 98 (1988) during the prior fiscal year. The minimum under the proposed law would be in addition to the funding required by Proposition 98. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the ballot initiative would likely result in increased spending of $800 million to $1 billion each fiscal year.

Of the total amount guaranteed under the 1% additional minimum funding for arts education, 70% would be allocated to local education agencies based on their share of the statewide enrollment of K-12 students in the prior fiscal year. The other 30% would be allocated to local education agencies based on their share of economically disadvantaged students. The initiative defines an economically disadvantaged student as “a pupil who is eligible for the National School Lunch Program.”

The initiative has received endorsements from former Superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District Austin Beutner, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (D), the California Teachers Association, and several celebrities and musicians.

Sir Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive officer of the Universal Music Group, said, “Music education supports all education – it fosters reasoning and skills that are the building block for learning other subjects. This measure is critical not only for education and learning, but also to mental well-being and even the state’s economic health. Companies like ours, that moved to California to be at the nexus of entertainment and technology, rely on a skilled workforce to fill the high-quality jobs we create here. If enacted, this initiative will ensure a future job-ready workforce and secure California’s position as the global epicenter of music and the arts.”

Californians for Arts and Music Education in Public Schools has reported over $7 million in contributions. The top donors were Austin Beutner ($2.95 million), Steven A. Ballmer ($1.5 million), and Fender Musical Instruments Corp. ($1.05 million).

The initiative is opposed by the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board. The board said, “This is a bad idea. Right now, state coffers are flush. But when revenue becomes tight in the future, the governor and Legislature need as much flexibility in the budget as possible to make sure that critical needs are funded. What happens if the student population plummets in future years while the number of disabled elderly people grows?”

Three other citizen-initiated measures have already qualified for the ballot. The initiatives concern in-person sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks, plastic waste reduction, and a ban on flavored tobacco sales. Another measure related to the cap on medical malpractice lawsuits qualified for the ballot but was removed after a legislative compromise was reached earlier this year.

There are five other initiatives that submitted signatures for verification. The initiatives concern online sports betting, an institute for pandemic detection, requirements for dialysis clinics, an income tax for zero-emissions vehicles and wildfire prevention, and a minimum wage increase.

Between 2010 and 2020, an average of 87 initiatives were filed in California annually. The average number of initiatives certified during that period was 10.

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