Prop. 28 Poised to Pass With Entertainment Industry Backing

A California ballot measure that would pump $1 billion a year into arts and music education appears set to pass by a wide margin, according to a poll released Friday.

The initiative, Proposition 28, leads by a 69% to 31% margin, according to the USC Schwarzenegger Institute-USC Price California Issues Poll.

Numerous artists and entertainment companies have lent their support to the initiative, which was spearheaded by former Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner.

“We’re in a very good position,” Beutner said in an interview. “People see the benefits of providing art and music education without raising taxes on anyone.

Nearly $600 million has been spent this round by various gaming interests on Propositions 26 and 27, which would allow sports betting in California. (Both of those measures appear headed for defeat, according to a USC poll.)

Meanwhile, the campaign to pass Prop. 28 was relatively modest, collecting only 10.7 million dollars.

Universal Music Group has supported the operation with a $25,000 donation and has also planted the “Yes on 28” flag on top of the iconic Capitol Records building in Hollywood. Live Nation Worldwide has also donated $10,000, while scrolling digital ads for the music concert initiative.

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Beutner has assembled a long list of celebrity supporters for the move, including Christina Aguilera (who hosted the fundraiser), Bonnie Raitt, Jason Momoa, Katy Perry, Lionel Ritchie and Issa Rae. Many of them have used their social media to spread the word.

Supporters of the measure argue that only 1 in 5 schools in the state have full-time arts or music programs and that such programs should be distributed more equitably. Beutner claims the initiative will be particularly helpful in improving the diversity of the entertainment industry.

“It’s going to be one of the biggest drivers of change in entertainment,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”

There is no organized opposition to the measure, but some critics — like the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board — argue the measure will tie lawmakers’ hands in any future budget crisis.

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“If Californians want arts and music education to be a priority, they can and should start by electing school board members and lawmakers who will make it a priority,” the paper wrote, urging a “no” vote.

Beutner retired as co-CEO of Evercore Partners in 2008, following a bicycle accident, and has since devoted himself to various civic endeavors. He served as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s top deputy, ran a brief mayoral campaign, served as publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and ran the nation’s second-largest school district for three years.

While in charge, Beutner partnered with Fender Musical Instruments Corp. to offer free guitar and lessons for middle school students. He also worked with Illumination, the animation studio, to provide animation lessons to high school students, and with Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine to launch a new high school focused on entrepreneurship.

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Beutner will retire from LAUSD in 2021, but those connections have carried over into the campaign. Beutner is the single largest contributor to the effort, contributing $4.3 million. Fender has contributed an additional $1.2 million, while Chris Meledandri, CEO of Illumination, has donated $25,000. (Penske Media Corporation, parent company Diversityhas also contributed $100,000.)

The California Teachers Association is also a sponsor, contributing $2.6 million. Other major donors include Barbra Streisand, Comcast and Steve Ballmer.

Most of the money was spent on petitions to qualify the measure for the ballot. Since then, the campaign has largely relied on celebrity interviewers to generate “earned” media. SAG-AFTRA will hold last-minute “virtually rallies” on Monday to help get a “yes” vote.

“It’s a really good story,” Beutner said. “Who could be against art and music? No one can, if you are not raising taxes. We should claim it with praise.”


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