September 27, 2016
After forty-six years, the wait for the credentialing of theatre and dance educators is over in California. On September 27, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Theatre and Dance Act (TADA!), Senate Bill 916, authorizing single-subject area certification for the two disciplines as part of the state’s visual and performing arts programs. California was one of only two states that did not offer single-subject certification for theatre and dance teachers; the other is West Virginia. According to the California Alliance for Arts Education, the state eliminated these credentials in 1970, when the Teacher Preparation and Licensing Law of 1970, known as the Ryan Act, inadvertently left the “s” off of the word “arts.” As a result of this omission the law has since been interpreted to authorize credentials only in visual art and music. Under current California law, individuals seeking to teach theatre or dance must earn English or physical education credentials, respectively. Over the years efforts were undertaken in the state’s legislature to change the law, but resistance existed for a range of reasons, including that the establishment of the credentials represented a precedent-setting proliferation of credential types. Senator Allen’s bill, introduced earlier this year, was supported by the Educational Theatre Association, all the state’s arts associations, including the California Educational Theatre Association (CETA) and California Thespians, as well as the backing of the state’s major teacher associations.
EdTA Vice President-elect Gai Jones, a former CETA president, said “The passing of SB916 TADA! Theatre and Dance Act is a model of collaboration. It took years of our keeping it in the forefront along with being in touch with the state’s arts associations and important people, such as Senator Ben Allen who authored the bill. This passage secures equity for our future theatre and dance educators. We are thrilled.”
Along with TADA!, Governor Brown also signed a bill authorizing a revision of California’s Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) standards for students in grades pre-K through 12. The bill requires the State Board of Education to adopt, reject, or modify any revisions by January 31, 2019.
“Passage of both of these bills is great news for our many EdTA members in California,” said EdTA Director of Educational Policy James Palmarini. “The data from the California Department of Education found that there were more than 130,000 students enrolled in theatre courses during the 2015-16 school year, and around 900 theatre educators teaching them. Now, new teachers will able to align their preparation for certification with 21st century arts standards, and veteran educators will finally get the certification validation they have long deserved.”