San Francisco Chapter E.D. Michael Winger and President Camilo Landau at the California State Capitol. Photo: Michael Winger
Will California's Next Budget Include Grants For Arts And Music Programs?
On Jan. 25, 2018 in the California State Senate, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee and the Joint Committee on the Arts, Sen. Ben Allen (D-26th) introduced the SB-933 grant program for visual and performing arts education. Known as the "Arts for Every Student Act," it would establish the Arts for Every Student Incentive Grant Program, administered by the California Department of Education. This bill represents an arts education goal the Recording Academy and other supporters of California arts education have been working toward since 2016.
There are many compelling reasons to support SB-933, starting with the significant impact arts education can have on students. Testifying at an April 4 hearing before the California State Senate Education Committee, president of the Recording Academy San Francisco Chapter Camilo Landau and its executive director Michael Winger were joined by Monique Mitchell, education coordinator for Get Lit-Words Ignite, who spoke of her own experience of being rescued from failing school by discovering poetry. She recognized influences including Countee Cullen and Luis Rodriguez. Mitchell also noted it was Maya Angelou's birthday before delivering a poem of her own, saying, "Sing caged birds, reform, resist. Rise up roses, we will persist."
Like Mitchell, Landau was able to testify from personal experience. In his case a quality arts education in California led to his nomination at the 58th GRAMMY Awards for his album Mondongo for Best Latin Rock, Urban Or Alternative Album. He spoke of teaching at a local underprivileged school where few students coming in had ever had the opportunity to take music lessons. He spoke to the transforming power of "engagement" that making music switches on in students, allowing them to apply a more creative and collaborative approach to the other challenges in their lives.
"Beyond just something that is fun for kids to do," said Winger about music, "it is the foundation of who we are as a people and as a society and as citizens."
Winger also endorsed the role of music education in spurring problem-solving and creative ways of thinking. "I would say we are the greatest state in the greatest nation that produces great artwork," he continued. "For our students to only have 38 percent enrolled in arts programs and arts education is a gigantic miss, and it is a gigantic missed opportunity that [we] have an opportunity to fix and make better."
Considering that the creative industries add $273 billion annually to California and employ roughly 10 percent of workers in California, cuts to arts ed have been economically self-destructive.
More than 1 million students were engaged in school music programs in the year 2000, but by 2008 that had dropped 57 percent to 470,000 music students. African-American and Latino students were disproportionately affected, with low-income schools and districts twice as likely to be stripped of their music programs.
Other groups supporting the bill who were present included the California Alliance for Arts Education, California Music Educators Association, Los Angeles County Office of Education, and the San Francisco Unified School District. The California State Senate Education Committee passed the bill unanimously and it later passed the full California State Senate. It has been referred to the California State Assembly for further consideration. With the hard work of Sen. Allen and all those who have done so much to support arts education and preserve its funding, music can continue to be the difference that makes more students' lives complete and successful.