One recent morning, bright and early, Jessica Sheldon stood in front of a group of Sunnyvale third graders. She was teaching the children how to dance while she played the ukulele and had a microphone hanging from her ear.
As the students leaped all over the floor, Sheldon yelled, “Right, left, right, together.”
While some were giggling and turning to each other for support, others had fixed expressions and were focusing on Sheldon’s motions. Some pupils, like Riya Mane, who is eight years old, wanted it could go on forever.
“It gives our bodies energy, and I really enjoyed that song,” Riya, a third-grader at Stocklmeir Elementary in Cupertino Union, said. “It’s just a lot of fun,”
Riya preferred starting her day with Sheldon’s class. However, it is seen by legislators around the state as the realization of Proposition 28, a statute that would soon provide California’s schools with almost $1 billion annually for music and the arts.
While some districts, like San Francisco Unified and Cupertino Union, started hiring new instructors this year, like Sheldon, others are still rushing to decide which programs to offer. Districts will have to decide how to use the windfall when it is distributed to classrooms in California in February, regardless of their readiness.
“Every school that hasn’t recruited a new arts or music teacher means kids are being left behind if 6 million students have the option to participate in arts and music in school,” stated Austin Beutner, the author of Prop 28 and a former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
After the initiative was handily adopted by California voters in November 2022, a new and continuous state funding stream was created to support a variety of programs, including dance, music, theater, painting, photography, animation, and film. The decision-making authority for these offers should rest with the school communities themselves, and personnel should be classified, credentialed, or both.
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