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 looks set to pass by a wide margin, according to a poll released Friday.

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

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

“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 cycle by various gambling interests on Propositions 26 and 27, which would allow sports betting in California. (Both of those measures appear headed for defeat, according to USC polling.)

Meanwhile, the campaign to pass Prop. 28 has been relatively modest and has only raised $10.7 million.

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

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

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

“This will 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 — such as 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 legislators who will make it a priority,” the paper wrote, urging a “no” vote.

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

While superintendent, Beutner collaborated with Fender Musical Instruments Corp. to offer 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 launch a new high school focused on entrepreneurship.

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Beutner resigned from LAUSD in 2021, but those matters have carried over to the election campaign. Beutner is the single largest contributor to the effort, putting in $4.3 million. Fender has put in another $1.2 million, while Chris Meledandri, CEO of Illumination, has given $25,000. (Penske Media Corporation, the parent company of Varietyalso contributed $100,000.)

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

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

“This is really a feel-good story,” Beutner said. “Who could be against art and music? No one can if you don’t raise taxes. We should welcome it.”


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