CVHS offers many visual and performing arts (VAPA) for students to partake in, and funding for them is about to increase. California schools are expected to receive $1 billion a year in funding for arts and music starting this February. For most schools, this means a sizable increase in music, theater, art, and film classes and a rush to hire new teachers during a severe shortage.
“All the decisions go up to Principal (Chris) Fortenberry and his admin team first, and then to the district. Currently, we are using it to form our new dance class,” said Alexis Knudsen, studio art teacher and VAPA department chair.
Proposition 28 was passed in November 2022 with overwhelming support from California voters. This has led to an ongoing state funding stream for programs such as dance, painting, photography, choir, and animation. The direction of the funding is intended to be decided by the communities themselves.
“Surveys went out to parents, students, and staff last school year to inform the expansion plans we started this year,” explained art teacher Jennifer Jervis. “This was a crucial part of the process because we are building a program to serve our community’s needs and interests.”
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, the Jefferson Union and San Jose Unified school districts are collecting input from students, parents, and community members to help guide their process, while Mt. Diablo Unified School District asked 36,000 parents to rank the art program they’d like to see expanded.
Schools will have three years to spend each round of money. Preliminary estimates showed that educational institutions should receive $112 per student, plus an additional $85 for every economically disadvantaged student. Eighty percent of the funding is intended to go towards staff salary, with the other 20 percent dedicated for materials, curriculum, training supplies, and other necessities. CVUSD expects to receive over $1 million in funding.
“We’ve earmarked some of the funding to elementary schools and middle schools,” said Knudsen. “The current focus is new teachers.”
For many schools, the largest hurdle will be hiring qualified educators. In the 2021-22 academic year, less than 800 educators received traditional teaching credentials in art, music, dance or theater, according to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. With 15,000 openings across the state of California and more to come, hiring has become incredibly competitive.
“Thankfully, we did not wait to begin our VAPA expansion, so our VAPA teachers are already in place and teaching awesome VAPA classes for our students,” remarked Jervis.
As a result, CVUSD has already introduced multiple new teachers at the elementary and middle school level, while other Bay Area school districts are struggling to hire new art and music teachers.
After waiting so long for proper funding and so much money coming in, principals, administrators, and school boards are determined to get this right. With only one in five public California schools having a teacher dedicated to arts, big changes are just around the corner.