Let’s Talk about Why Students in California Need Arts Education

Arts education is typically given the short end of the stick. It’s notorious for being the first to lose funding and seen as the last in terms of importance when it comes to getting students into college. The pandemic has only further limited access to arts education, as many of our students have spent the last two years in front of computer screens. The pandemic has also increased our need for arts education, which gives students healthy opportunities to socialize. 

Research has shown that students often perform better in school when they have access to arts education. What we don’t talk about enough is how essential visual and performing arts are to young, developing minds. Practicing art grows the part of your brain responsible for emotional awareness and empathy, the hippocampus. 

Now, arts education in California is actually a student right required by the education code, which mandates schools provide access to visual arts, music, theater, and dance. Sadly, 88% of California schools fail to provide this instruction, mandated by law. Only 39% of our students are enrolled in arts programs, compared to Arizona, Wisconsin, and Ohio who have 70% of their students engaged in the arts. This especially impacts low-income areas and students of color. 

However, we shouldn’t totally lose hope for the future of arts education in California! 

Former LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner proposed an initiative that would raise an annual $800 million for K-12 students to gain more access to music, drama, and visual arts education. Funders already include NBCUniversal and Fender music. It’s also gained support by artists like Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, will.i.am, and Issa Rae. The initiative is currently garnering support to qualify for the November 2022 ballot.

If it were voted into law, this initiative would provide additional funding for arts and music education in all K-12 public schools, including charter schools, by annually allocating from the state General Fund an amount equaling 1% of required state and local funding for public schools. It would also allocate a greater proportion of the funds to schools serving underrepresented students. 

Comadres, what do you think of this initiative? And why is arts education needed at your schools?

What do you think?
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Nataly Gonzalez

Nataly Gonzalez

Nataly is a writer and creative from the San Fernando Valley- shout out to the 818. As the daughter of immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico, she’s passionate about telling Latinx stories. Nataly is a proud alumna of UC Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies Department and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television. When she isn’t writing, you can find her dog momming, hiking, eating, or dipping her toes into any body of water she can lay her hands on.

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