Prop. 28 Poised to Pass With Entertainment Industry Backing

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

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

Many artists and entertainment companies have supported the initiative, which was spearheaded by Austin Beutner, former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

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

Nearly $600 million was spent this cycle by various sports interested in Propositions 26 and 27, which would legalize sports betting in California. (Both measures appear to have been defeated, according to USC polls.)

Meanwhile, the campaign to pass Prop. 28 was modest, raising only $10.7 million.

Universal Music Group sponsored the measure with a $25,000 contribution and has planted the “Yes on 28” flag on the famous Capitol Records building in Hollywood. Live Nation Worldwide also donated $10,000, while scrolling digital ads for the initiative at the music concerts.

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Beutner has amassed a long list of celebrity beneficiaries for the initiative, including Christina Aguilera (who holds the fund), Bonnie Raitt, Jason Momoa, Katy Perry, Lionel Ritchie and Issa Rae. Many of them used social media platforms to spread the word.

Supporters of the measure say only one in five schools in the state has a full-time art or music program and those programs should be more evenly distributed. Beutner says the initiative will further improve the diversity of the entertainment industry.

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

There is no planned opposition to the measure, but some critics — such as the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board — say 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 to make it a priority,” the paper wrote, urging a “no” vote.

Beutner retired as CEO of Evercore Partners in 2008, after a bicycle accident, and has since devoted himself to a series of community efforts. He served as a senior deputy to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, ran a brief mayoral campaign, served as publisher of the Los Angeles Times and led the district’s second largest school for three years.

While superintendent, Beutner collaborated with Fender Musical Instruments Corp. to provide free guitars and lessons to middle school students. He also worked with Illumination, an animation studio, providing animation instruction to high school students, and Dr.

Beutner is stepping down from LAUSD in 2021, but that relationship has carried over into the ballot measure campaign. Beutner is the largest contributor to the effort, putting in $4.3 million. Fender put up another $1.2 million, while Chris Meledandri, CEO of Illumination, gave $25,000. (Penske Media Corporation, parent company of Various typeshe also donated $100,000.)

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

Most of the money was spent on signature gatherers to qualify for the ballot measure. Since then, the campaign has relied heavily on its celebrity patrons to produce “earned” media. SAG-AFTRA will hold a last-minute “rally” on Monday to help get the “yes” vote out.

“This is a really good story,” Beutner said. “Who can be against art and music? No one can, if you don’t raise taxes. We have to pass it on as a compliment. “


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