Archive for July, 2010

AB 2446: A David and Goliath Story

July 1, 2010

by Laurie Schell, Executive Director

Yesterday, I traveled to Sacramento to give testimony before the Senate Education Committee against Assembly Bill 2446 (Furutani). The California Alliance opposes this bill because it means that fewer students would receive the benefits of the visual and performing arts. At a time when arts and music programs are being eliminated or drastically cut in school districts across our state, AB 2446 threatens to further limit access to arts education by adding career technical education as an alternative to the existing “visual and performing arts or foreign language” graduation requirement.

Although there is strong support for the bill (see list below) and it was passed in committee, there were important questions raised about the bill’s impact. Following is a detailed picture of yesterday’s hearing.

The Analysis:
The Committee’s analysis of the bill pointed out several potential shortcomings of this bill, including:

•    “Given current fiscal conditions, it is not clear how many school districts have the resources to provide CTE options for students without reducing course options in other areas.”

•    “…This significant change in policy could allow students to leave high school without having taken any arts or foreign language courses. In a state whose economy includes a robust arts and entertainment industry as well as increasing linguistic diversity, does that matter?”

•    “Students could end up taking fewer core academic classes, (…) which could affect the degree to which they are prepared for college-level work,” as well as “the rigor of CTE classes as compared to VAPA and foreign language classes”

To read more, including the potential fiscal impact of AB 2446, see the full analysis.

Senator Curren Price raised questions about the impact of the bill regarding equitable student access to the visual and performing arts and foreign language. His line of questioning led to an amendment requiring stricter reporting mechanisms be put in place to monitor impact.

Supporters of the Bill:
Just to give a sense of the magnitude of support for this bill, here’s a list of the heavy-hitters supporting it:

California Association of Sheet Metal and Air conditioning Contractors National Association
California Automotive Business Coalition
California Business Education Association
California Federation of Teachers
California Industrial and Technology Education Association and Foundation
California Manufacturers and Technology Association
California PTA
California Teachers Association
Metropolitan Education District
Small School Districts’ Association
State Building and Construction Trades Council

Opposing the Bill:
Arts Orange County
California Alliance for Arts Education
California Arts Advocates
California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
California Language Teachers Association
Education Trust West
Public Advocates
San Francisco Unified School District

The Vote:
The Bill will pass out of committee with 5 yea votes, 1 no, 2 abstaining and 1 absent. The votes are as follows:
No – Romero (East LA)
Yes – Huff  (Diamond Bar), Alquist  (San Jose), Emmerson  (Hemet), Hancock (Oakland), Liu (La Canada Flintridge)
Abstained – Price (LA), Simitian (Palo Alto)
Absent – Wyland (Carlsbad)

Thank you:

We are grateful to Senator Gloria Romero, the Committee Chair, for opposing this bill. We thank Senator Curren Price for raising concerns about the effects of this bill and adding an amendment requiring stricter reporting mechanisms be put in place to monitor its impact, and to Senator Joe Simitian, who also abstained from voting. Please send a message of thanks to Senators Romero, Price and Simitian:

Senator Gloria Romero

Senator Curren Price

Senator Joe Simitian

We also had strong testimony and advocacy from our colleagues Lorraine D’Ambruoso from California Language Teachers Association, and lobbyist Liz Guillen of Public Advocates, who made a compelling argument on the equity and high quality teacher issues.

Next steps:

We will continue to make our case in opposition to the bill, which now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Stay tuned over the summer for updates and action alerts!

Our Testimony:
The following testimony was given before the California Senate Education Committee about AB 2446 by Alliance Executive Director Laurie Schell.

I speak on behalf of the California Alliance for Arts Education, a statewide coalition of parents, teachers, business and community leaders, arts organizations and concerned citizens, committed to ensuring that arts education is a core component of a quality education that every student in our state should receive.

Last year, Assemblyman Furutani introduced Assembly Bill 554, legislation very similar to AB 2446, allowing students to replace a course in visual and performing arts, foreign language, with a course in career technical education. The Alliance opposed the bill, making the case that the legislation would undermine students’ access to arts education and be denied of its potential benefits, including efforts to join the work force, as the visual and performing arts are uniquely qualified to provide students with the necessary skills to succeed in their lives and in the workforce.

The Alliance worked closely with Assemblyman Furutani to amend the bill, crafting language to ensure that it would do no harm to students’ access to arts education. The amendments stated that students be allowed to choose two courses from the subject areas of visual and performing arts, foreign language, and career technical education. Assemblyman Furutani accepted the amendments and the bill passed out of the Assembly Education Committee. This was an acceptable compromise.

But now we’re back where we started. We oppose Assembly Bill 2446 because it pits one subject area against another, because it creates access for career tech by undermining access to the visual and performing arts, and because it forces students to choose between a course in arts education or foreign language or career tech. And further, it creates a disincentive for students to pursue college preparatory courses and perpetuates a socio-economic gap between college bound and non-college bound students.

At a time when arts education programs are being cut in districts throughout the state, it sends the message that though we say we care about the arts, we are willing to push arts education to the side, even though we know that classes in dance, music, theatre and visual arts are the very courses that engage students who might otherwise drop out from school; even though research and employers indicate that arts education prepares students with the very skills they need to be successful in school and find their place in the 21st century workforce.

The unintended but inevitable consequence of this legislation will be that fewer students will have the opportunity to benefit from the skills and knowledge that arts education offers, and in too many cases, those will be the students most at risk, most disconnected from their education, most likely to drop out – the very students this bill is intending to help.

I ask the committee to step back and consider whether that’s the direction we want our schools to go. I ask that you reconsider the amendments Assemblyman Furutani proposed last year, and that you continue to support a comprehensive education for every student, one that includes the arts.