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GLOBE EXCLUSIVE: Empower Schools to Fund the Arts, Don’t Mandate It

Why Candidate for the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Lance Christensen opposes Proposition 28

By Lance Christensen, October 22, 2022 2:45 am

Californians rightly want their children’s schools to have vibrant arts and music programs. As a father of five, I’m right there with them. I absolutely think that we should be funding arts and music programs a lot more than we are. But I am opposed to Proposition 28 on the upcoming ballot. 

Why would I oppose a proposition to require one percent of the state’s current non-education budget resources for arts and music programs without directly raising taxes?

The reason is because there is more than enough money within the current state education budget to fund the arts, we just don’t allow local school districts to make budget choices to free up money for those programs. School districts should be allowed to choose the priorities for their local students, not be forced into difficult budget decisions because of a statewide ballot initiative. 

On its face, Proposition 28 funds K-12 art and music education the way it should be done – dedicating money out of the general fund. The state is already committed to spending $78.6 billion of the state General Fund budget this year for education through Proposition 98, a ballot initiative approved by the voters in 1988 to equalize education expenditures. Yet, Proposition 28 doesn’t improve Proposition 98, it simply creates another mandate to handcuff school districts. 

I’m in favor of getting rid of mandates at the state level and letting the districts have full autonomy over their budgets. A proposition like this only gives school board trustees scapegoats for worse budget decisions going forward.

Here’s an idea instead, why not simply bolster the A-G college requirements and require more arts and music for enrollment in higher education? Money follows incentives better than mandates. Instead, Proposition 28 would require more plans and reports from principals who can barely get decent plans and reports together right now.

Furthermore, Proposition 28 would require a significant increase in the employment of arts and music teachers instead of using funds for teacher incentives to help struggling schools.

Consider this scenario: if a high school has 100 teachers and one of them is the band teacher, under Proposition 28 the school might need 2 or 3 more to comply with the mandate. That school will experience more costs than expected since that school will be competing for a limited supply of band teachers across the state. While it could be a payday for band teachers, it may come at the cost of another English, math or science teacher as resources get squeezed.

I’m also concerned about what happens when there is a downturn in the economy. Will the legislature rely on deeper cuts in arts and music under the normal Proposition 98 formula because Proposition 28 fills the gap? Will Proposition 98 arts and music teachers be unfairly cut during hard times? Such uncertainty will ultimately lead the legislature to prescribe more ridiculous rules that are impossible for districts to comply with. I know from experience. 

I spent 2 years on my local school district’s citizen finance oversight committee and 3 years as the vice president of my son’s high school booster club. I will never underestimate the ability for school administrators to misunderstand legislative intent or adequately navigate the complex budgeting when they are already under a lot of strain by a menagerie of competing and unending mandates.

There is a place for good ballot initiatives to improve arts and music in school. In fact, I worked hard to place an initiative on the ballot this year that would have allowed parents more choices for schools with education savings accounts that could have bought instruments and art supplies, hired vocal coaches or provided funds for a play. But such an effort would reduce the legislature’s leverage, so they crush any efforts for more flexibility.

While Proposition 28 sounds good, let’s not damage our schools further through more one-size-fits-all ballot box budgeting. Let’s give parent access to that money and see what kind of art and music their kids can create without the bureaucratic barriers.

Lance Christensen is a candidate for the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction on the November general election ballot, and is the vice president of education policy and government affairs at the California Policy Center.

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6 thoughts on “GLOBE EXCLUSIVE: Empower Schools to Fund the Arts, Don’t Mandate It

  1. Vote for Lance Christensen – California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Start the process of rebuilding the decrepit public school system in California.

      1. Will definitely be voting for Lance Christensen for CA State Supt of Public Instruction. Hope everyone will be sure to vote for him; big changes —- good ones —- will come if Christensen is elected to this office.

        P.S. Hey Cali Girl, wanted to let you know —– it looks like Brian Dahle heard your pleas! Post-debate Dahle will be driving a semi truck up and down California, coming to a town near you (and me), and ending with a rally in San Diego on October 29th.
        “Brian Dahle – Big Announcement”
        https://www.facebook.com/BrianDahleCalifornia/videos/1152970078957895/

  2. Never give the Satanic public schools more money. They always use it for evil. First reform them and install righteous people as teachers and principals and then fund the arts. There is monumental waste in the so called educational system. Fix the waste and you will be able to fund the arts, sciences and everything else and have truck loads of money left over.

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