By Gwen Sullivan of Portland, Oregon. Gwen is a teacher in the Portland Public Schools and president of the Portland Association of Teachers.
Portland’s embarrassing lack of arts and music education in our public schools puts our kids’ future at risk. Along with an amazing coalition of educators, parents, local business people, community leaders and citizens from throughout Portland, I believe that Measure 26-146 is a powerful and creative solution that will help keep students engaged in school and on track to graduate.
Some have questioned if this proposal is really good for our schools. As a teacher, a PPS Parent and the President of the Portland Association of Teachers, my answer is absolutely yes.
26-146 will fully fund elementary arts teachers for all six Portland school districts ensuring that every Portland elementary school student gets arts education every week. It will make arts supplies, arts programs and arts field trips freely available to K-12 students citywide with approximately $1.6M in grant funds to schools and non-profits. And it will fund teachers on special assignment to coordinate arts education opportunities for every K-12 student in Portland’s six school districts.
Measure 26-146 provides critical new funding and resources that are desperately needed by our schools. It WON’T require school districts to spend additional money on arts education at the expense of other vital programs or force schools to hire new teachers if they already offer weekly arts education.
Some have suggested that 26-146 does not make a significant enough investment in arts education because nearly half of the funds will be administered by the Regional Arts & Culture Council. I believe that this package is made stronger with RACC’s inclusion.
RACC’s funding of teachers on special assignment, art supplies, K-12 arts programs and K-12 arts field trips are essential components of this arts education package. And the remaining 31% of the fund that RACC will invest in arts access is a vitally important investment for our City. And, further supports arts education by funding organizations like Children’s Healing Art Project, Oregon Children’s Theatre, Portland Youth Philharmonic, Young Audiences, Ethos Music Center, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Northwest Children’s Theatre and Tears of Joy Theatre.
Some have suggested that this measure would be hurtful to the low-income residents of our city. I couldn’t disagree more. And I am not alone.
I stand with Street Roots, perhaps the strongest voice for lower income and marginalized people in our community, which has just endorsed Measure 26-146.
“Art is everywhere in Portland. It’s at the core of our city’s personality. But in our core institutions, particularly for children and the poor, art is either nonexistent or out of financial and social reach…For $35 per person we can fund not only public school programs but also programs generating community involvement among people who are social and economically marginalized.” ("Measuring Up." Street Roots [Portland] October 12, 2012, News: Page 3.)
Every tax has its problems. But I believe that one of the most important problems we face is the lack of arts and music education in our public schools – a hole in basic curriculum that limits educational opportunities for our children. Measure 26-146 is good for schools, good for kids, good for citizens and good for the city. And our kids are counting on it and us to come through.
Please join me in Voting Yes for Measure 26-146. Find out more at www.schoolsartstogether.com.