Signature gatherers work hard to shore up funding for music and arts in California schools

Signature gatherers work hard to shore up funding for music and arts in California schools

Speaker 1: (00:00)

Signatures are being collected right now for a proposed state ballot measure that could guarantee funding for arts in public schools. K PBS education reporter mg Perez tells us the effort could mean a huge transformation for students

Speaker 2: (00:17)

That you’re working in orange monochromatic and blue.

Speaker 3: (00:19)

Yeah. Max Swan is the art teacher at the creative performing media arts middle school in Claremont, best known as simply CPMA it’s one of the San Diego unified school districts showcase campuses for theater, music dance. And of course the studio art classes taught by Mr. Swan, who started as a math teacher.

Speaker 2: (00:40)

I got a math credential and an art credential, and then quickly found out how much they actually, um, overlap and interconnect. And now I’m an art teacher.

Speaker 3: (00:48)

Swan is passionate about his art as he conveys comfort and confidence to his sixth, seventh, and eighth 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.

Speaker 4: (01:06)

Yeah, you, you can express yourself like in different ways. You can tell your moods and color. Like you can see how you feel like how’s your day going. You express it

Speaker 3: (01:14)

By doing art. The CPMA art class is an example of creativity that has survived the COVID crisis and budget cut. It’s also an exception, even though the California education code mandates art music, theater, 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 Butner, who is now leading the group, California for arts and music education in public schools. Butner 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 states.

Speaker 5: (01:57)

We are that creative capital, not just in America, but really for the world. Uh, and that dichotic me between the robust creative industry, uh, and public schools, which still offer that same opportunity as what we’re trying to

Speaker 3: (02:09)

Address Butner and his organizers are proposing voters, direct the legislature to use at least 800 million. If there’s a state budget surplus to exclusively pay for arts programs in every public school with option to defer the money elsewhere. It’s a radical idea with some radical supporters. Uh,

Speaker 6: (02:29)

You may know me as an actor, but when I was a teenager, I wanted to

Speaker 3: (02:33)

Be an artist, voice sound familiar. He is Emmy and Tony award winning actor, John Liko. 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

Speaker 6: (02:50)

A time of tremendous divisiveness in political turmoil. Everybody’s hotheaded on the subject of political issues, but the arts bring people together in all sorts of ways.

Speaker 7: (03:02)

Get ready, use your good, powerful

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Voice back at CPMA middle school. Kathy Hickman’s intro to theater 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

Speaker 7: (03:25)

Nice to get the extra help in order to serve the community the way they deserve to be served with all of the proper resources things for building sets, um, all of our technology and making sure that things are upgraded in an appropriate manner as well.

Speaker 3: (03:40)

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 would just bring more supplies and create more opportunities for teachers like max

Speaker 2: (04:04)

Swan, I’m developing a beginning, intermediate and advanced at our school. So it’s only growing students are more interested and we’re seeing more art on

Speaker 3: (04:11)

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

Speaker 1: (04:20)

Joining me is K PS education reporter mg Perez mg. Welcome. Hi. Now since the state education code requires art education to be offered to every student, isn’t there a funding structure for the arts already in place you

Speaker 3: (04:36)

Would think there would be, but as, uh, has been the case for Cal, California and much of the country, uh, the economy, uh, has not always been great. And so funding that might have been channeled to arts in the past, uh, are the first to be cut. And that is the reason this ballot, uh, measure is being proposed so that there is a guarantee that the state does have to spend money on arts.

Speaker 1: (05:00)

Tell us though, what is the reason that only 20{99d7ae7a5c00217be62b3db137681dcc1ccd464bfc98e9018458a9e2362afbc0} of California schools have a full-time arts teacher? How did that end up that way?

Speaker 3: (05:07)

Well, it really is a matter of budget cuts. Uh, when you’re looking at school budgets, uh, the first thing to go would be the arts program because it’s about reading and writing, uh, and, uh, arithmetic as the saying goes. And so when those needs need to be met, uh, cutting the arts program, the music program, the drama program that’s really become the place to go. And as a result, there are so many children who are not enjoying the benefit of that kind of education.

Speaker 1: (05:38)

Now, the way this ballot measure is constructed, it sounds like arts funding would only be available when there was a budget surplus. Is that right?

Speaker 3: (05:46)

That is correct. Uh, the organizers will tell you that they have room for, uh, putting more detail into it that might come up with other, uh, uh, sources for funding. But because the surplus has been so significant over the last few years, they thought this was the opportunity to really strike and, uh, put that money to use, uh, for our children, uh, in regards to the arts and their education.

Speaker 1: (06:15)

Now you spoke with teachers and students who were involved in painting and acting, and I’m wondering what other areas of the arts would be covered by this ballot measure.

Speaker 3: (06:25)

This is kind of the beauty of this. Uh, it would be, the guarantee would be that every public school in California would get arts funding and then it would be up to the individual schools or disc to decide how that money would be spent. For instance, let’s say we have a district that has an incredible music program, but they’re lacking in theater that money could then be channeled in that direction for, uh, productions and education and so forth. And it really is tailor made to the needs of each specific, uh, district or in some cases, individual old schools and how they might want to spend that money.

Speaker 1: (07:01)

The connection that the former LA school superintendent made between California as an entertainment capital and the arts in public schools. That’s interesting. Can you tell us more about what he means?

Speaker 3: (07:12)

It really is ironic as he mentioned, and that is that California is considered the entertainment capital of the world, uh, in most circles. And yet the state does not devote money to the education of children, the future artists, if you will, the future movie stars and writers and producers and so forth. And so really that’s the disconnect that this measure is, uh, designed to a us let’s fund them, get ’em while they’re young, that way we can continue, um, to, to grow this industry that, uh, is so precious to California and, uh, help our children at the same time.

Speaker 1: (07:51)

The students you spoke with, uh, of course, sound very excited about the arts that they’re learning, but what effect does arts such a educat have on children’s overall education?

Speaker 3: (08:02)

The teachers that I talk to, the administrators that I talk to say it is a matter of mental health students, uh, are given the opportunity through the arts to express themselves. And the piece that I did, the young man who said, Hey, I can express my feelings through color, uh, so that you might not think about, uh, will he become a professional artist someday, maybe, maybe not, but in the moment it has contributed to his mental health. And that’s really, uh, the plus to this as well. Not every child who goes through an arts education will become an artist, but boy, what a great education and experience and growth opportunity the they will have while in the classroom. If this measure is passed

Speaker 1: (08:44)

Mg, you referenced the usual reading, writing, and arithmetic that, uh, a lot of parents wanna see these, their children become competent in. So I’m wondering are parents generally supportive of more arts education for their kids?

Speaker 3: (08:59)

It is hard to find somebody who will say arts are bad. Uh, but at the same time, they will say, it’s the first to go. If we can’t teach them how to read and write, uh, what the curriculum is geared toward, uh, nowadays it is integrating all of that. So for instance, how might art be, uh, integrated into a math class? And therefore you’re getting both, you’re both learning the arithmetic, but you’re also getting an opportunity to express yourself, uh, through painting perhaps. And that’s really, I think, uh, the direction that this ballot measure wants take, uh, education in California. And it’s hard to find a parent to say, that’s a bad idea. I think

Speaker 1: (09:40)

Now how much time do supporters have to collect a million signatures to get this on? Is it this year’s ballot? Yes,

Speaker 3: (09:48)

Uh, they have until May 1st, but here’s the thing. Technically they only have to gather 662,000 signatures, but they are shooting for a million because remember they all have to be valid signatures and, uh, they want to make sure that this makes it to the ballot. So they feel in order to guarantee they have the minimum, they need at least a million signatures between now and May 1st in order to get it on the ballot.

Speaker 1: (10:15)

I’ve been speaking with K P S education reporter, mg Perez mg. Thank you so much. Thank

Speaker 3: (10:21)

You, Maureen.