A California ballot measure that would pump $1 billion annually into arts and music education is poised to pass by a wide margin, according to a poll released Friday.
According to the USC Schwarzenegger Institute-USC Price California Issues Poll, the initiative, Proposition 28, is leading by a margin of 69% to 31%.
Several artists and entertainment companies have supported the initiative, which was spearheaded by former Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner.
“We are in a very good position,” Beutner said in an interview. “People see the virtue of providing arts and music education without raising taxes.”
About $600 million has been spent this cycle by various gaming interests on Propositions 26 and 27, which would allow sports betting in California. (Both of those measures are headed for defeat, according to the USC poll.)
Meanwhile, the campaign to pass Propaganda 28 remained relatively modest, raising only $10.7 million.
Universal Music Group has supported the measure by donating $25,000 and also planted The “Yes on 28” flag atop the famous Capitol Records Building in Hollywood. Live Nation Worldwide also contributed $10,000, while scrolling digital ads for the initiative at music concerts.
Buettner has lined up a long list of celebrity endorsers for the measure, including Christina Aguilera (who hosted a fundraiser), Bonnie Raitt, Jason Momoa, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Issa Rae. Many of them have used their social media platforms to spread the word.
Proponents of the measure argue that only 1 in 5 schools in the state have a full-time arts or music program and that such programs should be spread more evenly. Beutner argues that the initiative will be particularly helpful in improving the diversity of the entertainment industry.
“This will be the biggest driver of change in entertainment,” he said. “That’s a big deal.”
There is no organized opposition to the measure, but some critics — such as the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board — argue that the measure would tie lawmakers’ hands in future budget crises.
“If Californians want arts and music education to be a priority, they can and should start by electing school board members and legislators who will make it a priority,” the paper wrote, on a “no” vote. emphasized
Buettner retired as co-CEO of Evercore Partners in 2008, following a bicycle accident, and has since devoted himself to a series of civic endeavors. He served as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaregosa’s top deputy, ran a brief campaign for mayor, served as publisher of the Los Angeles Times and led the nation’s second-largest school district for three years.
While superintendent, Fender Musical Instruments Corp. to offer free guitars and lessons to Beutner Middle School students. partnered with He also worked with Roshni, the animation studio, to provide animation instruction to high school students, and with Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine to start a new high school focused on entrepreneurship.
Beutner stepped down from LAUSD in 2021, but those relationships have carried over to the ballot measure campaign. Beutner is the largest contributor to the effort, with $4.3 million. Fender put up an additional $1.2 million, while Roshni’s CEO, Chris Melenderi, contributed $25,000. (Parent company of Penske Media Corporation A variety of varietieshas also contributed $100,000.)
The California Teachers Association is also a backer, putting in $2.6 million. Other major donors include Barbra Streisand, Comcast and Steve Ballmer.
Most of the money was spent on gathering signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. Since then, campaigns have largely relied on their celebrity endorsers to generate “earned” media. SAG-AFTRA will hold a last-minute “practice rally” on Monday to help get a “yes” vote.
“This is a really good story,” Beutner said. “Who can be against art and music?” No one can, if you are not raising taxes. We should appreciate it.