For years, research has proven that music education lifts academic achievement and can improve test scores in mathematics. Music education can also help students learn new languages. But beyond the studies and scientific data — music enhances lives. It gives youth an opportunity to express themselves, learn new skills, and connect with their peers and mentors.
And yet, music education – and arts education generally — is under threat in California. Only one in five California public schools have a full-time arts or music program, and 88 percent of schools fail to provide the arts and music education required by law. The impacts of underfunded arts and music education in our public schools fall hardest on low-income communities. Sadly, there has been slow chipping away at music education in school districts across the state.
I’ve spoken with music educators who were forced to quit their jobs as their full-time roles were reduced to part-time. One middle-school arts teacher was asked to teach high school as well — with no additional staffing or resources. This is why I urge California voters to vote yes on Proposition 28 in November, which will increase funding for arts and music education programs in California public schools — without raising taxes.
For the past several years, my company has supported nonprofits offering music education to youth in public schools and afterschool programs through our Sonos Soundwaves initiative. We were inspired by the devotion of nonprofits like Notes for Notes, which provides music classes in Boys & Girls clubs around the state, the Music Imagination program at the Turner Foundation, which offers jazz and blues instruction to youth in affordable housing, and the Sing! Program, providing choral instruction to kids in Title I schools.
But students in some schools in Santa Barbara County, where our company is headquartered, have had to choose between learning music and other crucial subjects like coding or a second language — if they’re even given a choice at all. This unfairly asks kids (and their parents) to choose between vital and complimentary skills that all play a role in a child’s educational success and development.
And for those who are passionate enough to choose music, they still face additional obstacles. For example, brass instruments like saxophones need reeds to be replaced regularly and violin strings can break. We’ve spoken with several music teachers, unable to raise money from their local Parent Teachers Association, who pay out of pocket to repair instruments used by hundreds of students throughout the year.
This is why we strongly support Proposition 28. Prop. 28 is a sensible ballot initiative that will fund music education across the state, particularly in disadvantaged schools — without raising taxes. And if passed, Proposition 28 will be the largest investment in arts and music education in the country. The initiative requires 100 percent of the additional school funds to be used for arts and music education, with at least 80 percent on hiring teachers and aides. The funding can also help with staff training, supplies, materials, and educational partnerships with arts and community organizations.
We support after-school programs and supplementary music education — but it does not compare to the quality, scale, and scope of free music education in the public school system. All kids deserve quality music education, and Proposition 28 ensures all California students have the opportunity to benefit.
Deji Olukotun is the Director of Global Affairs & Sustainability at Sonos.