Early election results are showing a clear pattern: Voters want more investment in youth programs and education, in both Sacramento and California.
While it will be weeks before we know final results, Sacramento’s Measure L, which would create a children’s fund for programs serving youth under 25, has a strong early lead as of Nov. 9. And the Associated Press called the race for California’s Proposition 28, which will set aside 1% of the state’s budget to fund K-12 arts and music education across the state.
Advocates who pushed for Measure L and Proposition 28 say their passage would be a good first step to closing equity and resource gaps for youth — but there’s still more work to do, especially with implementation.
Monica Ruelas Mares, an organizer with the SacKidsFirst coalition, said one key component of implementing Measure L is its nine-person community oversight committee, which will work with the city’s Youth Advisory Commission to make recommendations on how the city should spend the Sacramento Children’s Fund. Ultimately, though, the City Council will decide how to spend the roughly $10 million each year.
For Ruelas Mares, advocating for youth voices on the oversight committee is crucial to successful, continued investment in youth.
“Having youth involvement and engagement, not just at the tail end, but at every step of the process is what SacKidsFirst is going to be pushing for,” they said. “Young people in Sacramento… they’re the ones who know the solutions, because they’re the closest to what they’re dealing with.”
While the distribution of money is under the City Council’s discretion, Measure L’s newly created Sacramento Children’s Fund must go to “positive youth development and violence prevention programs” if it passes.
To Leo Hsu, the chair of the Sacramento Youth Advisory Commission and an 11th grader at West Campus High School, that means investment in “helping disadvantaged communities, especially those impacted a lot by use of violence, youth substance abuse, youth homelessness.”
Hsu added that he hopes the Measure L funding — and the youth spearheading the money’s allocation — will help “make these programs better for people who will use them who are just like us.”
A dedicated city funding stream for youth programming isn’t a new idea in the state — Oakland and Richmond both have funds allotted to supporting youth services, with Oakland implementing the idea in 1996.
But this is the third time Sacramento voters have been asked whether they’re in support of a Sacramento Children’s Fund, after Measure Y in 2016 — which was narrowly defeated — and Measure G in 2020.
Its success this time around, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said at City Hall Wednesday afternoon, means “people want a city that is for and about young people.”
Meanwhile, Proposition 28 will provide more funding to Title 1 schools, where at least 40% of enrollment is low-income students.
In Sacramento County, around 55% of K-12 students qualified for free or reduced-price meals during the 2021-22 school year; 11 of the county’s 14 public school districts had at least 40% of their enrollment meet that qualification.
Allison Cagley, the founding director of Friends of Sacramento Arts, says the dedicated funding stream created by Proposition 28 will help provide equity in “arts education access.”
“Some [schools] that have a higher socioeconomic demographic, they might have more active parent participation — and a lot of times, in those schools that have higher resources, the parent participation groups will actually supplement funding for art docents and arts expressions and arts enrichment in the schools,” she said. “You go to a Title 1 school, and they don’t necessarily have those same resources.”
Friends of Sacramento Arts was founded in 2019 to help address that gap and ensure arts education is “every day for every child in every school” in California, Cagley said. She says she’s also hoping the proposition’s passage will also help underscore the benefits of arts education.
“The arts needs to be a part of the daily curriculum and not just ‘a fun thing to have’ that is sometimes the first thing stricken from the budget, because it’s not directly related to some of the other budget areas,” she said.
School districts that receive extra funding due to the Title 1 schools in their district are required to use 80% of that additional funding to hire arts and music education teachers in order to keep receiving funds.
The results of the election will be certified by the state by Dec. 16.
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