Vote Arts & Music, a California ballot measure aiming to increase arts and music education funding for public schools across the state without raising taxes, has garnered support from some of the biggest names in music and business, including Fender, since it was announced last year.
In February, Fender hosted an event at its Corona, California, facility featuring several celebrity guests in an effort to raise funds for the measure, and just last month it launched a month-long digital concert series called Vote Arts & Minds Sessions.
Earlier this week, it was officially announced that the measure received more than 1 million signatures, solidifying a spot on the Nov. 8 ballot.
In an exclusive interview with Music Inc., Fender CEO Andy Mooney and former Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent and proponent of the initiative Austin Beutner sat down to discuss the measure, why it’s important for school programs across the country and how California-based businesses can get involved.
MI: Congrats on reaching the ballot. What does this mean to you after all the hard work?
Austin Beutner: You don’t have a real test of your idea until you stand in front of a grocery store or a school and see if you can convince people to join the coalition and more than 1 million have. That’s pretty incredible.
MI: What do you want readers of Music Inc. to know about the Vote Arts & Music measure?
Andy Mooney: Now that we know we are going to be on the ballot, we feel the likelihood of this being passed is high, which means we’re talking about a $900 million minimum in annual funding for music and arts education in the California school system — which is probably the most diverse school system in the world. So, I believe it will create a new generation of a creative community that’s more diverse than any other time in history.
AB: Less than one in five public schools in the state of California have a full-time arts and music program, and that’s just awful. What this will do will almost double the funding that goes to schools. Every kid from Pre-K-12 in the state, almost 6 million kids, will benefit — with extra funding going to high-need areas. I think over time this effort is going to ensure that media and entertainment companies better reflect the children in our public schools, and I can’t think of a more timely idea for us to get behind. Fender was there with us first when it was just an idea. When Andy and I had lunch last summer, it was just an idea. It has become a lot more than that, and I, and a lot of kids, will be eternally grateful for Fender’s willingness to stand up and help make it possible.
MI: Could this measure be a model for other states across the country to jump on board with similar initiatives?
AB: This would be the largest investment in arts in education in our nation’s history. This is a national issue. As so many schools have had cuts to their funding over the last few decades, California most acutely, unfortunately arts has been first to cut and last to be restored. I’m excited because I think California leads the country in many [ways], and I think this is going to become a big idea — bigger than California. We’ve been approached by other arts leaders in other states since we’ve kicked this off asking if we could help them pull it off in their state.
MI: How can our readers who are Californians or have businesses based in California get involved?
AM: We need their vote. When we step back and think about how important the creative arts are to the economy of California, it just makes sense for the whole state to get involved.
AB: Endorse it. Share information with employees and colleagues about it. We hope more choose to join us. It’s going to benefit 6 million kids, every family in in the state of California and anyone who cares about their community. MI