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El Dorado County high school cuts dance program despite Prop 28 funding

Dance program cut from a El Dorado high school despite Prop 28 funding
Dance program cut from a El Dorado high school despite Prop 28 funding 02:26

EL DORADO COUNTY — Teachers and parents are speaking out after learning a dance program will be cut from an El Dorado County high school next year

This comes after an expected increase in funding for visual and performing arts programs after Proposition 28 passed in November 2022.

"It's really confusing and it's really upsetting," said Caitlin Rubini, a dance teacher at Union Mine High School.

Rubini has been the dance teacher at Union Mine for nearly nine years.

She learned about four weeks ago that the program would be cut for the 2024-2025 school year after, she said, her principal made a blanket statement at a staff meeting about tough conversations on the way.

"He called me into his office and he said, 'Because we need an English teacher, the dance program is going to be cut,' " Rubini said.

Rubini said that although she had taken on additional responsibilities such as teaching English and yearbook over the years, the dance program being cut completely was a shock.

"It's what brings them to school every day. It's what keeps them engaged in other classes. It's what gives them a purpose to come to school," Rubini said.

More than 64% of California voters voted in favor of Prop 28 in 2022, which is supposed to bring more funding to the visual and performing arts in K-12 schools.

This is leaving teachers like Rubini confused about where the money is going if programs are being cut.

"Our school should have about $170,000 allocated toward the arts this upcoming school year, and there's no proof as to where that funding went," Rubini said.

The El Dorado Union High School District released a statement saying:

"Union Mine High School, like many schools in California, is experiencing declining enrollment. Despite this trend, we are committed to maintaining our robust arts curriculum. As students register for classes, they clearly express their interests and preferences. Enrollment in the dance program has decreased, while interest in drama has increased. In response to our students' changing preferences, and the needs for other classes, we will add more drama sections, though this means eliminating two dance classes. This adjustment reflects our commitment to adapting to student interests and ensuring the continued vitality of our arts programs at the El Dorado Union High School District."

Heather Freer, a drama teacher and program director at Union Mine High School, said this will impact departments beyond just dance.

"I can't do a musical that has 32 kids in it or 42 like we're doing now that don't have dance in it. That's not how musicals work," Freer said.

These musicals or dances, she said, may be saving students' lives.

"I think every day we have students come up to us and say, 'I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you,' and sometimes it means, 'I wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for you,' because the arts is that program," Freer said.

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