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Are California Schools Illegally Diverting Arts Education Money?
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By CalMatters
Published 2 weeks ago on
June 5, 2024

A coalition of nearly 100 arts groups says that some California school districts may be misusing Proposition 28 funding, which voters approved in 2022 to expand arts education, including visual arts, theater, dance and music. (Shutterstock)

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A celebrity was in the house for the state Senate’s floor session last week: Hollywood actor Danny Glover, as “an advocate for the arts,” according to Democratic Sen. Anthony Portantino of Glendale, who introduced him. Glover’s visit comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes to slash $22.5 million in state arts funding in his latest budget plan (which Democratic legislative leaders want to mostly restore).

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Lynn La

CalMatters

But as some advocates are seeking more arts funding, others are calling for more oversight on money already set aside for the arts — in public schools.

As CalMatters K-12 education reporter Carolyn Jones explains, in 2022 voters passed Proposition 28, which earmarked $1 billion a year to expand arts education, including visual arts, theater, dance and music. The money is distributed partly based on students’ economic needs.

But a coalition of nearly 100 arts groups says that some school districts may be misusing the money to pay for existing positions and programs. At the time Prop. 28 passed, barely 1 in 5 schools employed a full-time art or music teacher.

But others, such as Modoc Joint Unified School District, are struggling to spend their Prop. 28 money due to their existing robust arts programs.

  • Tom O’Malley, Modoc Joint Unified superintendent: “Right now, the money is just sitting there, which is very frustrating when we have all these other needs.”

A spokesperson for the state Department of Education said an independent auditor is expected to review Prop. 28 spending, and that the department takes “any misuse of state funds very seriously.”

Read more about Prop. 28 spending, read Carolyn’s story.

Get a Head Start on Paying for College

More on education funding: Jacqueline Munis of CalMatters’ College Journalism Network explores an underutilized program that aims to give California families a head start on paying for college.

Established in 2022, the California Kids Investment and Development Savings Program, or CalKIDS, offers newborns and some first grade students a tax-free college savings account.

Babies born between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023 receive $25, and those born after July 1, 2023 receive $100. Low-income first graders receive a one-time deposit of $500; those in foster care or who are unhoused receive more.

While nearly 3.7 million students and 667,000 newborns have money invested in these accounts, most CalKIDS funds remain unused: As of March, only 6.3% of newborn accounts and 7.4% of student accounts have been claimed, despite social media, email and direct mail awareness campaigns.

Learn more about CalKIDS and see if your child is eligible in Jacqueline’s story.

About the Author

Lynn La is the newsletter writer for CalMatters, focusing on California’s top political, policy and Capitol stories every weekday. She produces and curates WhatMatters, CalMatters’ flagship daily newsletter with more than 150,000 subscribers. Lynn is based in the Bay Area. She graduated from UC Davis and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.   

About CalMatters

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.

 

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