A California ballot measure that would pump $1 billion a year into arts and music education appears to be about to pass by a wide margin, according to a poll released Friday.
The plan, Proposition 28, is leading by 69% to 31%, according to the USC Schwarzenegger Institute-USC Price California Issues Poll.
Many artists and entertainment companies have given support to the project, which was led by Austin Beutner, former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“We’re in a good place,” Beutner said in an interview. “People see the benefits of providing arts and music education without raising taxes for anyone.”
About $600 million was spent this cycle by various sports interests on Propositions 26 and 27, which would allow sports betting in California. (Both measures appear headed for defeat, according to the USC poll.)
Meanwhile, the campaign to pass Prop.
Universal Music Group supported the measure with a $25,000 donation as well planted the “Yes on 28” banner atop the iconic Capitol Records Building in Hollywood. Live Nation Worldwide also donated $10,000, while scraping digital advertising first for music concerts.
Beutner has assembled a long list of celebrities who support the measure, including Christina Aguilera (who hosted the fundraiser), Bonnie Raitt, Jason Momoa, Katy Perry, Lionel Ritchie and Issa Rae. Many of them used social networks to spread the word.
Proponents of the measure argue that only one in five schools in the district has a full-time art or music program and such programs should be more evenly distributed. Beutner argues that the program will be particularly helpful in improving the diversity of the entertainment industry.
“This is going to be one of the biggest changes in entertainment,” he said. “That’s a big thing.”
There is no organized opposition to the measure, but some critics — such as the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board — argue that the measure will tie lawmakers’ hands in any future budget crisis.
“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, urging a “no” vote.
Beutner retired as CEO of Evercore Partners in 2008, following a bicycle accident, and has since devoted himself to a series of public initiatives. He served as a top aide to the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, ran a short mayoral campaign, served as publisher of the Los Angeles Times and led the second largest school for three years.
While still a director, Beutner joined Fender Musical Instruments Corp. offering free guitars and lessons to middle school students. He also worked with Illumination, the animation studio, to provide animation instruction to high school students, and with Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine to start a new business-oriented high school.
Beutner stepped down from LAUSD in 2021, but that relationship continued into the election campaign. Beutner is the only major contributor to the effort, putting in $4.3 million. Fender put in another $1 million, while Chris Meledandri, CEO of Illumination, gave $25,000. (Penske Media Corporation, parent company of Varietyhe also donated $100,000.)
The California Teachers Association is also supportive, putting in $2.6 million. Other major donors include Barbra Streisand, Comcast and Steve Ballmer.
Most of the money was spent on signing up participants to be able to vote. Since then, the campaign has relied heavily on celebrity sponsors to create “earned” media. SAG-AFTRA will hold a last-minute “rally” on Monday to help sway a “yes” vote.
“This is an interesting story,” Beutner said. “Who can be against art and music? No one can, if you are not raising taxes. We have to give ourselves respect. “