Arts Education

Do I have a right to an arts education?

YES. California public schools must offer arts education to students in grades 1 through 12.   

For students in grades 1 through 12, your school must provide a course of study in visual and performing arts (VAPA), including (1) dance, (2) music, (3) theater, and (4) visual arts. The California Education Code specifically states that all public schools students in grades 1-12 should have access to all four of the major arts disciplines.  However, research shows that nearly 90% of California’s public schools are not complying with this law.  

What can I do if I am not receiving any arts education? What about if I’m receiving some, but not enough?

If you are not receiving any arts education, you should ask your counselor or principal if they can provide arts courses or instruction.  If they don’t, you can work with other students and families to urge your school district to provide arts education at your school.  You can also ask your principal or school board if there is a complaint process for you to formally complain about the lack of arts education at school. 

Some students in our Youth Liberty Squad (YLS) have taken action to bring art into their schools. As a student in the 11th grade, Alysha Boone started a petition demanding that her school in the Los Angeles Unified School District and principal offer visual art classes for students.  After gathering over 100 signatures through digital organizing, including through social media, Alysha submitted the petition to her school and won her demands – an arts program for her and her peers!  Here is toolkit we created to help other students do the same at their school.

How do I find out what arts education and opportunities are offered at my school?

You can ask your principal or counselor about the arts opportunities offered to students at your school. Here is the link to a data tool that allows you to look at arts courses your school and district offer. Here is a less recent data tool created by the ACLU of Southern California that explores arts access by race, school type, English learner status, and more.

I want to apply to a UC or CSU college and I need to fulfill a yearlong arts education requirement.  Does my school have to offer a class that meets the UC or CSU arts requirement?

YES.  Because you need one year of arts education to be eligible for admission to the University of California or California State University colleges, your school must offer arts classes that help you fulfill that criterion for admissions eligibility.  This is usually one year of arts education.

What is Proposition 28? How can I use it to advocate for arts education in my school or district?

In November 2022, California voters approved Proposition 28, which provides a minimum source for annual funding to “supplement arts education programs” for pupils attending PK–12 public and charter schools.  The yearly amount of annual funding is estimated to be between $800 million to $1 billion. 

Here is a TOOL where you can look up the amount of funds that your school should be receiving annually because of Proposition 28.  Most schools are receiving tens of thousands of additional dollars to support arts education.

Proposition 28 is a new law, and many issues are emerging related to how schools and districts want to use the funds.  Here are a few important considerations or issues that you might have to raise in your school district:

  • Allocated funds are available for use for up to three years.
  • Funds must “supplement” and not “supplant” a current arts education program, meaning the funds must expand a school’s current arts education programs and not replace existing funding. For example, if a school spends $100 on arts education this year, they are expected to spend $100 plus their Proposition 28 allocation next year.
  • Funding allocated with an equity formula: 70% of funds go to PK-12 public schools based on enrollment. 30% of funds go to public schools based on the share of economically disadvantaged students (aka Title I students)
  • UNLESS granted a waiver,
    • 80% of funds must be used to hire district staff to teach arts education,
    • Up to 20% can be used for arts materials, partnerships, and professional development, and
    • No more than 1% can be used for administrative costs to implementation of the proposition.
  • School districts/ Local Education Agencies must submit an annual board-approved report detailing how they spent the funds and certify that they used them per the requirements.
  • Each school site principal or program director must develop an expenditure plan.
  • An “arts education program” includes, but is not limited to, instruction and training, supplies, materials, and arts education partnership programs, for instruction in dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts, including folk art, painting, sculpture, photography, and craft arts, creative expressions, including graphic arts and design, computer coding, animation, music composition and ensembles, and script writing, costume design, film, and video.
  • Here is an article from CreateCA that shares more. Here is another compilation of resources.

What can I do if I want to advocate for arts education throughout my district and community?

Create CA is a statewide arts education advocacy organization that has created several tools and opportunities for students to fight for arts education.  They host an annual Student Voices film contest where students can submit their own work to their school boards to advocate for their right to an arts education.  Create CA also created this tool for people to contact their school board.  Finally, Create CA created toolkits and materials to empower communities with arts education advocacy information.

In 2022, Youth Liberty Squad students organized and reached out to Los Angeles Unified School Board Member Tanya Ortiz Franklin about sponsoring an Arts Justice Resolution or policy in the district to make arts more accessible for the over 400,000 students in LAUSD.  After multiple meetings, school board testimony, and mobilizing over 35 organizations to support the resolution, the school board unanimously passed the resolution.  Here is the language of the resolution that you can build from to advocate for resources for the arts program in your school district.

For students in Los Angeles County, here are a few other opportunities to advocate for more arts education:

  • Students in LAUSD can get involved in the Arts Advisory Council that was created by the Arts Justice Resolution. Follow the Youth Liberty Squad on Instagram for the latest information about this.
  • Students throughout LA County can get involved in the Arts Education Collective that is a part of the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture.
  • Arts4LA is an organization that focuses on arts advocacy and education throughout Los Angeles.

Where can I find free artistic and creative opportunities for students?

In 2020, the Youth Liberty Squad launched its Arts Justice Council and digital art journal called “The Road to Find” to provide a creative space and platform for students.  These initiatives have provided students with thousands of dollars while publishing hundreds of works of student art.  All students are welcome to submit their art.

The Art Hour was founded by Arlene Campa (ACLU SoCal’s first Arts Justice Fellow) and other students to provide free virtual arts education opportunities for students. Here is a link to other resources that provide free arts opportunities for students.