By Angela Rodriguez | Special to The OBSERVER

The Sacramento City Unified School District is set to expand its arts and education offerings to students next year thanks to voter approval of Proposition 28, though details still are being worked out, district officials said.

California voters in November’s election voted yes on Proposition 28, requiring California  to allocate an estimated $1 billion annually to public schools across the state for arts and music education.

While nothing is final, C.J. DeAngelus, visual and performing arts coordinator for Sacramento City Unified, said he has put together a proposal on how the district will spend the money based on his knowledge of the proposition and the issues he hopes to address.

“What we’re looking to do with this Prop 28 money is to make sure that every elementary school has at least one part-time music or art teacher during the school day,” DeAngelus said. “The goal being that every student has access to music or art in elementary school, which will trickle up to the middle and high schools.”

DeAngelus said the district has slowly implemented strong music and arts programs for students before and after school. He said that this effort resulted as part of a grant – the Expanded Learning Opportunities Grant – the district received two years ago.

“The primary issue that I have been working on for about three years is equity for music and arts instruction for our students during the school day,” DeAngelus said.

He said he expects his current budget of $800,000 to become $6.5 million through Prop 28. The goal of these extra funds will be to build new programs and fund new art teachers.

Sacramento City Unified Trustee Jasjit Singh has been on the district’s board of education since December and said he hopes Proposition 28 will provide equitable access to students across the district.

“I still believe that there are multiple discrepancies around Sacramento City Unified and also just in general around school districts across the state,” Singh said. “These discrepancies are based on race and demographics, such as finances.”

Singh said he hopes that the funding from Prop 28 will go directly to supporting art teachers and making sure that they are put into classrooms, especially in the schools that need it the most.

“From my understanding, we have some schools that have PTAs that supplement the cost of bringing in an arts teacher, and that’s really putting the onus on parents,” Singh said.

Singh said it does not promote equity to rely on parent-teacher associations to provide additional funding to support arts programs. “Schools where the PTAs are more robust and the parents are able to bring in more money are going to be giving their kids better access to arts education.”

Based on the information provided by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, around 6 million children attend public schools throughout California and about 60% of them are from low-income families. Prop 28 will help ensure that these students have equal opportunities to arts and music programs.

Sacramento City Unified parent and community member Irving Garcia said he did not realize how underfunded the arts and music programs were in California. “When I was younger, I didn’t participate in any music or arts programs,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t until my senior year in high school when I wanted to try something new and joined band class.”

Garcia said one reason he did not join any arts and music programs throughout most of his school years was that they were never provided in elementary school.

“We did have the option to participate in band during middle school, but I feel like it was too late for me to express any interest by then,” Garcia said.

Now that he is a parent, Garcia said that he is happy to hear the state is doing more to support music and arts programs, especially in low-income communities. “As a parent, I want [my daughter] to have the same opportunities as other kids her age,” he said. “My family might be considered low-income, but that shouldn’t keep her from doing something that she is interested in.”

Garcia said that more music and arts programs should be implemented into elementary schools because those early years are crucial in child development and helping kids figure out the things they like.

“I think music and art is important. It teaches people to connect with each other,” Garcia said. “No matter what language you speak or how much money you make, I feel like music and art speaks to all of us.”

This story was written for Sacramento State journalism Professor Phillip Reese’s Data Journalism class.

Support for this Sacramento OBSERVER article was provided to Word In Black (WIB) by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. WIB is a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media that includes print and digital partners.