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The State of California Considers Bill That Will Hurt K-12 Arts Education

Essentially this bill means that students who attend career and technical education high schools in the State of California do not have to have any arts instruction, at all. They still have to have all the other subjects required for graduation, but not the arts.

And the really bad news is that this bill appears to be moving full steam ahead.

I am a big supporter of CTE. in fact, I am a member of the New York City Department of Education’s Chancellors Advisory Council for Career and Technical Education. And my growing knowledge of CTE makes this legislative proposal read that much more tin-eared, or shall I say tone-deaf?

There may be those who feel that students in a CTE school, (CTE is what was once know as vocational/technical) do not need the arts. I mean why would an automobile mechanic, graphic designer, construction worker need to have a well-rounded education that includes the arts????

Funny I should ask.

The CTE of today has embraced an education that is at its core high quality and progressive. While graduates of such programs often move directly on to a career, often in trades, rather than college, leading educators in CTE know that these students need a well-rounded education same as students in traditional, or what were once called “academic” high schools. There are many who see elements of CTE school design and structure as the missing piece in non-CTE high schools, including the internships/externships, deep connections with professionals, ongoing practical professional development, real world experience, and more.

The notion that CTE students don’t need the arts is completely backwards to a 21st century career and technical education. And, it is oddly similar to the notion that students in low performing schools don’t need the arts or that there isn’t time. It might be interesting to take a look at how CTE school demographics compare to traditional high schools in California…

Centrally, there are two issues with this terrible piece of legislation:

1. Are the arts just for those who go on to college, a dangerous approach by any measure?
2. This change in high school graduation policy will weaken one of the few quantifiable measurements concerning the provision of arts education at the K-12 level: the high school graduation requirement.

As a small observation, I also find this change interesting, as it is quite the bucket of cold water on the notion of the creative economy. For all the talk about this economy, a big one in the State of California, how is that the very same state may wipe out arts education in CTE high schools?

The California Alliance of the Arts has posted an item on this, including a link to send an email in protest.

There are a few other policy matters I will bring to your attention in the next week or so, for in particular they illuminate some of the ways the arts and arts education field has yet to get its own act together.

Here’s a clip of the section of the bill in question:

AB 2446, as amended, Furutani. Graduation requirements.
Existing law prohibits a pupil from receiving a diploma of
graduation from high school unless he or she completes specified
requirements, including, but not limited to, completing one course in
visual or performing arts or foreign language.
This bill , commencing with the 2011- 12 school
year and until July 1, 2016, would add completion of a course
in career technical education, as defined, as an alternative to the
requirement that a pupil complete a course in visual or performing
arts or foreign language.
Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no.
State-mandated local program: no.


SECTION 1. (a) The Legislature hereby finds and declares the
(1) The foundational principle of the Education Code is that all
pupils shall have access to equitable educational opportunities and
(2) The future of the state is dependent upon minimizing, if not
entirely alleviating, the inequities in our public schools so that
all pupils will have more equitable opportunities to learn skills
needed for entry into the workforce, to pursue postsecondary
educational goals, and to contribute to the social cohesion of the
(3) Current law specifies the courses a pupil must complete to
graduate from high school. However, too many pupils are dropping out
of high school or graduating without the necessary foundation to
succeed in the workplace or in postsecondary education.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that:
(1) By specifying the types of coursework that pupils must
complete in order to graduate, pupils will have world class skills
and the workforce of the state will be competitive in the global
(2) Pupils will be prepared to meet the academic and technical
skills challenges of the high school curriculum and that they will
take advantage of the range of course options available to them.
(3) In order to increase the rigor of the coursework and to ensure
that pupils are prepared to meet the demands of the 21st century,
the courses required for high school graduation must be aligned with
the standards and frameworks that are adopted by the state board.
SEC. 2. Section 51225.3 of the Education Code is amended to read:
51225.3. (a) A pupil shall complete all of the following while in
grades 9 to 12, inclusive, in order to receive a diploma of
graduation from high school:
(1) At least the following numbers of courses in the subjects
specified, each course having a duration of one year, unless
otherwise specified:
(A) Three courses in English.
(B) Two courses in mathematics.
(C) Two courses in science, including biological and physical
(D) Three courses in social studies, including United States
history and geography; world history, culture, and geography; a
one-semester course in American government and civics; and a
one-semester course in economics.
(E) One course in visual or performing arts, foreign language, or
, commencing with the 2011-12 school year, career
technical education.
(i) For the purposes of satisfying the requirement specified in
this subparagraph, a course in American Sign Language shall be deemed
a course in foreign language.
(ii) For purposes of this subparagraph, “a course in career
technical education” means a course in a district-operated career
technical education program that is aligned to the
career technical model curriculum standards and framework adopted by
the state board .
(iii) This subparagraph does not require a school or school
district that currently does not offer career technical education
courses to start new career technical education programs for purposes
of this section.
(F) Two courses in physical education, unless the pupil has been
exempted pursuant to the provisions of this code.
(2) Other coursework requirements adopted by the governing board
of the school district.
(b) The governing board, with the active involvement of parents,
administrators, teachers, and pupils, shall adopt alternative means
for pupils to complete the prescribed course of study that may
include practical demonstration of skills and competencies,
supervised work experience or other outside school experi
ence, career
technical education classes offered in high schools, courses offered
by regional occupational centers or programs, interdisciplinary
study, independent study, and credit earned at a postsecondary
institution. Requirements for graduation and specified alternative
modes for completing the prescribed course of study shall be made
available to pupils, parents, and the public.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a school district
shall exempt a pupil in foster care from all coursework and other
requirements adopted by the governing board of the district that are
in addition to the statewide coursework requirements specified in
this section if the pupil, while he or she is in grade 11 or 12,
transfers into the district from another school district or between
high schools within the district, unless the district makes a finding
that the pupil is reasonably able to complete the additional
requirements in time to graduate from high school while he or she
remains eligible for foster care benefits pursuant to state law. A
school district shall notify a pupil in foster care who is granted an
exemption pursuant to this subdivision, and, as appropriate, the
person holding the right to make educational decisions for the pupil,
if any of the requirements that are waived will affect the pupil’s
ability to gain admission to a postsecondary educational institution
and shall provide information about transfer opportunities available
through the California Community Colleges.
(d) This section shall become inoperative on July 1, 2016, and, as
of January 1, 2017, is repealed, unless a later enacted statute,
that becomes operative on or before January 1, 2017, deletes or
extends the dates on which it becomes inoperative and is repealed.


  1. Rebecca Borden says:

    This post got additional traction through CultureMonster at the LA TIMES.
    Keep up the great work, Richard!

  2. Stating that CTE students need art is as valid as claming art students need CTE. However, California high school graduraction requirements are such that students are unable to take all valuable courses. It is apprecaited that this bill gives students and their partents the ablity to determine wheter art, languages or CTE courses best meets their life goals.

  3. Sorry Colette, but I have to disagree, big-time. Denying arts to CTE students creates a little ghetto of haves and have nots. To create a policy that says that only traditional high school students will ultimately have school-based access to the arts flies in the face of how CTE is viewed.
    And why exactly would arts be different from any other subject that is required for all students receiving high school diplomas in the State of California?

  4. Thanks for speaking up against AB 2446.
    Arts education contributes to higher test scores across all subjects and reduces truancy and dropout rates. CTE students should have access to them and vice versa!

  5. Darren Willis says:

    I think that as teachers in Arts or CTE that our biggest obstacle to student success to both our curriculums are the high school counselors. If they didn’t put every kid who is not in Special Ed or a remedial program into 4 years of Foreign Language to pad their college applications, AND give them multiple math classes (Calculus AND Statistics) as well as a 4th year of science in their senior year, a student could fulfill their UC/CSU requirements and still EASILY fit into their schedule SIX (yes, 6!) classes from V/PA, CTE or both if they chose. What if EVERY KID could spend 4 years in a VPA, AND 2 years in a CTE class? Or take my class for 4 years and get a year of Fine Art and a year of Band? Or 3 years in TWO VPAs? Can you imagine? (If you don’t beleive me email me and I will send you the sample schedule that completes the A-G requirements AND has 6 open periods for arts or cte over the 4 years)

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