Arts Now California

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), reauthorizing the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s education law and longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students. The law supports a well-rounded education, which is defined to include the arts. ESSA supports the work already underway in school districts across California, which are responding positively to research-based evidence demonstrating that arts education strategies transform student outcomes. In these areas, arts education has become a funding priority in addressing student needs and improving school-wide outcomes.

Through the Arts Now California campaign, the California Alliance for Arts Education and our partners shine a light on these districts and the strategic investments they are making to improve the quality of students’ educations. Our goal is to establish the expectation that every district is responsible for providing their students with a high quality, comprehensive education that includes a robust arts program, complete with instruction by credentialed arts teachers as well as arts integration strategies being implemented across the curriculum. Our campaign will celebrate districts taking a leadership role in prioritizing arts education and will encourage other districts to prioritize arts education.

Statewide Campaign Objectives:

  1. Activate Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) advocacy through outreach and education
  2. Promote and support the development of district and county arts plans
  3. Promote and support utilization of arts integration strategies within the Title I program
  4. Amplify the voice of students in school decision-making and arts education advocacy

"An Unfinished Canvas," the SRI study in 2006 of Arts Education Policy and Practice in California, found that "In California’s more affluent schools, almost twice the percentage of students received instruction in each arts discipline, compared with high-poverty schools." Where community resources support a complete education, the arts exist; where those resources are lacking due to economic disadvantage, the arts and its many benefits for students are marginalized. These benefits extend from student engagement in school, to improved academic achievement, to developing aspects of creativity and innovation cultivated by the arts, to preparing students with the skills they will need to function successfully in the workforce. Learn more.

At this moment, California's education system is undergoing an unprecedented process of re-evaluation and re-investment. California's Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) requires local school boards to address goals that include student engagement, parental involvement, school climate, student achievement and pupil outcomes. The arts speak directly to those outcomes. School boards are seizing this opportunity to invest in arts education strategies in unprecedented ways.

We want to build upon their commitment, and to spread the word to neighboring districts, by offering a fresh approach to our new educational priorities.

LCFF offers an opportunity for arts education to emerge as a strategy that districts pursue to enhance student learning and improve school climate. For example, in the Chula Vista Unified School District, $15 million has been invested in hiring over 70 credentialed arts teachers to ensure that all students receive instruction in music, theatre, dance, and visual arts. Learn more.

An Arts Education Plan is produced from a strategic planning process that creates a visionary, sustainable plan designed to increase the quality, quantity and equity of arts education in schools.

The Alliance recently celebrated Napa Valley Unified School District, where a team composed of district and community leaders came together to create a five-year plan that will guide decision making to achieve complete arts education for all students K-12.

As a result of the Alliance's policy and advocacy work, Title I funds are now being used for arts education strategies that support academic achievement among low-income students in California. In San Diego Unified School District, the school board has committed $3 million in Title I funds to support arts integration learning in 22 elementary schools. Learn more.

Student voices are essential to igniting change in the education landscape. Students can and should be included in district planning and advocacy efforts. In 2016, hundreds of students participated in the Alliance's Student Voices Campaign, an annual video advocacy campaign, spurring exciting changes in schools across California including the expansion of arts programs, the hiring of new teachers, and the addition of gender neutral bathrooms.

The implementation of Common Core curriculum also offers a unique opportunity to include the skills and practices inherent in arts education across subject matters. Learn more.

Our campaign will focus on outreach, education, and recognition of the various arts education strategies available. Campaign components will include:

  • Regional Arts Now Summits: Rallying point for celebration, cultivation, professional development and education of local advocates, administrators and decision makers.
  • Arts Now Communities: A statewide network of regional/district/county advocacy groups who receive strategic coaching, training, communication supports and grant opportunities to pursue campaign objectives.
  • Arts Planning Initiative: Strategic assistance, high caliber facilitation and financial stipend to help school districts and counties complete an arts plan using the best tools available.
  • Title 1 Arts: Step-by-step coaching for schools and districts to incorporate arts integration strategies in their Title I program.
  • LCFF: Tools and training to help community advocates effectively participate in their school district’s annual planning process.
  • Alliance Turnkey Advocacy Projects & Student Engagement: Encourage engagement in Student Voices Campaign, Candidate Survey, Arts Ed Data Project, and other tools to advance campaign goals.
  • Alliance Policy & Advocacy Hub: Webinars, policy papers, research and collateral materials to support education and advocacy.  
  • Press Outreach, Campaign Branding and Communications: Branding and communications that tie together all elements of Arts Now along with strategic press outreach and social media to drive coverage, awareness and education.
  • Statewide partnerships: Strong ties with statewide organizations and associations for the primary purpose of regional strategy integration.

Together we will demonstrate the success of arts education learning in districts that have embraced a robust investment and determine how best these practices can be replicated elsewhere.

The California Alliance for Arts Education was established as a volunteer-driven grassroots organization in 1973, aimed at ensuring that arts education is at the core of every child's education. The mission of the Alliance is to advocate for high quality arts education for all students by providing policy expertise and by mobilizing a statewide network of advocates and allied partners. Learn more.

Arts Education Learning Exchange - San Diego County 2016

Thursday & Friday, March 17-18, 2016

The event brought national focus to two school districts in San Diego County, where arts education has emerged as a priority to improve student success. The Exchange enabled participants to witness school site learning, hear from key leaders and stakeholders within the school districts and local arts organizations, and learn strategies and resources districts can use to embed arts education in student learning.


March 16 - Pre-Event Workshop: In-School Arts Education and El Sistema School Advocacy
El Sistema Applied Case Studies led by Eric Booth:
March 17 - Chula Vista Elementary School District Presents "In-School Arts Education"
School Site Visit Documents:
March 18 - San Diego Unified School District Presents "In-School/Out-of-School VAPA Immersion Day"
School Site Visit Documents:
A celebration of student learning and community support was held the evening of March 17th to recognize these local leaders and celebrate the critical importance of arts education in student learning.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Napa has a unique story to tell. In 2013, Arts Council Napa Valley (ACNV) created the ACNV Education Alliance to assess the state of arts education in Napa County. This public-private alliance after producing an arts education assessment commissioned the drafting of a Napa Arts Education Master Plan, which presents a comprehensive framework for the development of TK-12 sequential, standards-based arts education curriculum. Since then, NVUSD has hired a full-time Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Coordinator, and new curriculum and programs are being developed to fulfill the promise of the assessment and the Arts Education Master Plan.



The California Alliance for Arts Education gratefully acknowledges support for this program from the Stuart Foundation and the Adobe Foundation.