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The impacts of AB 1575 on California high school visual and performing arts programs
California is ranked 49th in per pupil spending (Fensterwald, 2013) therefore, it is no surprise teachers continue to be concerned how to bring funding to their visual and performing arts (VAPA) programs. Pupil fees are a direct violation of California’s “free school guarantee” (1879, 1984). Reinforced in 2010, the issue of pupil fees re-emerged in a statewide lawsuit creating Assembly Bill (AB) 1575. To date, there is no research until now investigating the impacts of the removal of pupil fees on high school VAPA programs. The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not in the quest to be equitable to all students under this bill, an inequity in schools is caused. Concurrent triangulation mixed-methods approach was employed because it collects qualitative and quantitative data simultaneously. Quantitative data was collected from an online survey involving 77 respondents (76 VAPA teachers and 1 Administrator). Qualitative data was collected via interviews with nine Superintendents throughout California and the open-ended responses from the online survey participants. Quantitative data was analyzed via descriptive analysis, Pearson Correlations, and Chi Square to determine what significant variables impacted VAPA teachers in relation to AB 1575. Qualitative data was analyzed using an open-coding system and basic qualitative analysis to discover any emerging themes. Findings expressed how the data correlated to Ecological Systems Theory, Resource Dependency Theory, and Equity Theory. The macro perspective given from the Superintendents stated compliancy with the bill in their district and implementation of appropriate measures to ensure no fees are charged to students. Approaches to information dissemination varied according to district. All Superintendents agreed the arts are an important facet to an educational experience yet funding replacement specific to AB 1575 was only addressed by one Superintendent. Two-thirds of Superintendents expressed this bill will not achieve equity for students, whereas VAPA teachers’ expressed classroom funding does not meet student needs. Although most teachers are aware of the bill and its intent, the lack of professional development hinders compliancy. Further, as teachers experience a continued decrease in funding, many are concerned for the future of VAPA classes. AB 1575’s many facets allow for future research in the following areas: (a) Appropriate arts education funding models, (b) AB 1575’s impacts on afterschool and athletic programs, (c) Unintended consequences of educational policies, and (d) Teacher perceptions towards students who pay versus those who do not. AB 1575 is a complex system that affects students, parents, teachers, and districts differently. The bill begins to address the inequity students received when they were resource dependent for their education. Now is the time to ensure VAPA programs are justly funded so they are never again resource dependent on their students. Every student deserves a high quality arts education with multiple opportunities to flourish.