26-146: Standing up for arts in our schools

FACT: In 2011, only 18% of Portland elementary schools provided art instruction compared to 83% nationally.

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.

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          The working, unemployed, and disabled poor can do the math, especially when it comes to very the small numbers that make up their lives and the thin, thin line that is the difference between make it or late rent.

          Here's a despairing thought - what if poor parents and families lay awake nights wishing there were some way their grade school kids would fall in love with something - anything - about school? Something that they would wait all week to do, would try to be good for because they loved it so.

          Something they could count on to bring their kids running in the door after school, breathless to show someone, to talk to someone about what they did, how they did it. Something they would continue to do in the evening, maybe instead of TV or video games during the long, rainy evenings of being poor - not much interesting to do except hang out, wander around the malls, be bored and get tempted to trouble. Maybe even have access to expanded modules online to check out with their spare time.

          Something they thrived on, couldn't wait to try out each new thing. Something to be there their entire public school attendance... maybe even offered as a structured program during summer. Something that might mean a work study or internship, even for high school.

          Something that would get them to stay in school long enough to get through high school.... Dare they hope - a scholarship?

          But for now, just for now at least, a reason to quicken their kid's step for the bus in the morning so as not to be late.

          Art Class. What will you do today in art class?

          Maybe that night's sleep would be worth 10 cents a day for the next year.

          Enough said? I mean besides the Street Roots endorsement? And I'll try not to dwell too long on the despairing thought that you so easily discount, "perhaps the strongest voice for lower income and marginalized people" as to ignore it.

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        I remember that I'll pay $35, and so will Eileen Brady and Ron Saxton. I don't like that very much.

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        And if you have 2 minimum wage workers in your house, it's $70.

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      It really feels like you are choosing words to be contentious. Regressive is defined as flat. How can it be regressive and worse than regressive? Please explain so as not to loose your point in the weeds of hyperbole.

      It will take some large distinction, though, to support that you are not arguing for argument's sake, standing on principle (usually the equivalent of standing on a pile of poo - take a whiff) rather than picking your battles.

      For example, if you believe that establishing a progressive tax basis to fund the arts in schools is a ploy to bring in a ringer at another date to tack onto the arts funding, or perhaps that arts funding will skyrocket eventually, well, let's talk about that.

      But I for one am not willing to let one more batch of kids pass through the primary grades without their knowing how to think creatively and how is important that is, for the love of a few very small beans. Because all the science and math curriculum in the world will not solve any problems, envision any new thing, or make their lives happier ones without creative thinking.

      After all, Gwen is working folks,too. Maybe it's time to relieve her and her constituency of digging in the couch cushions for change and eating so much Ramen noodles at lunch to find money to pay for their own classroom supplies.

      What say you Logan?

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      Sen. Shields,

      You're absolutely right.

      BUT can you really say that the way this measure is funded is fair to working families in N and NE Portland?

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        This is the proposal that is before Portland voters. if it fails, we are unlikely to see another any time soon, so let's make it very clear that a vote against this measure is a vote against Arts Programs for kids, especially in the places where they are needed the most.

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          Places like the Riverdale school district?

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          No Sal. A vote against this issue is a vote against unfair taxation. I fully support the arts and education and I personally find it offensive when people try to insinuate that I don't when I vote down a bad bill that has more to do with re-distributing wealth from the poor to the well-off than it does with education and art.

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            Please support that statement by explaining how 10 cents a day is redistributing wealth, especially in light of the Street Roots endorsement?

            Or is this battle one you encourage us to take up as autonomous individuals being deprived of our economic status so savagely that we should wait another four years of the portland public school children's lives to prove a point worth $140 a household and a whole grade school arts curriculum delivery missed by that time?

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    There is theory and then there's practice. You can spend a lot of time hyper-analyzing $35 through an academic microscope. In the real world, this is a modest fee that will go a long way toward equalizing arts access for kids in poorer neighborhoods without well-padded PTAs. This $35 fee will be able to be paid in installments, should a person or family feel the need to do so. In totality, 26-146 will help more people with the least burden on all. And it will be catalytic in advancing our other needed school funding reforms.

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      It's not about the $35 damnit. It's about the fact that I pay $35 and so does someone who makes over a million dollars a year. It's also about the fact that nearly half of the money does not go to needy schools. Instead it goes to things like Oregon Opera and other similar arts venues that do not support children directly at all, and also that have their own revenue streams.

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        You really don't understand about partnering with organizations in the community that exist and serve common good, do you?

        I mean, do you even have a kid? Has that kid or will that kid have access to the Oregon Opera or similar arts venues children's education programs outside of school? You know, for hundreds of dollars for the the same program provided by those same venues as they would have access to in school ? No? You don't have that kind of pocket money you say?

        Exactly. Pretty good deal, huh?

        Oh. wait - you don't have a kid? Don't be a Scrooge!

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        Your making my own argument for me. The Multnomah County ITax was a bad tax, unfairly putting an additional burden on poor people who could not afford it.

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          Totally different situation. This isn't a campaign created by one school district. This was created by a coalition of people: the mayor, the arts community, all Portland area school districts, concerned citizens. You won't get this collection of people together again to work this hard on an arts measure with the support of a sitting mayor. Then again, it looks like Logan has volunteered to lead, fund, research, and devise another campaign in two years. Logan, are to up to the task?

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        There needs to be an unlike button Kari.

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      Hey! Do you see me asking you for the second time: Can you explain that?

      Given 10 cents a day please define "extreme."

      And unless you are as poor as the folks Street Roots can claim as their constituency, stand down off the soap box, My Brother, because they have first dibs on the pockets of those billionaires.

      Two years is too long, too late. You read that post from the ELL teacher? You see the latest Fordham Foundation report on our schools?


      Thought not. NEXT!

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    Interesting that two of Sam Adam's staff (Jennifer Yocum and CarynBrooks) are making the case for this measure. Obviously doing what they can to save the mayor's (tarnished) legacy.

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      Or the Mayor is supporting it because he supports it, like everyone else should.

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        I must have missed the meme that says people should vote in a monolithic block without critical analysis and possible objections. As Logan said, no one disagrees about that we need funding for arts in our schools

        Snarkyness aside, this is, in my opinion, a pretty poorly constructed measure and is once again putting another band-aid on the severe funding wound. We will never be able to stop the piecemeal funding approach of our schools if we keep saying "just this one more time" We are doing ourselves and our children a huge disservice in the long run.

        I supposed that everyone who supports this measure is it is designed, should also support, in the same monetary value, a PE measure and technology measure both which are absolutely jokes in most Portland schools todau

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          Please explain the prior "band-aids," of which this is just another? This is unique, both in terms of what it is funding, and how it's doing it. I'd say that sometimes the best solutions to intractable problems, are the unique solutions.

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      Indeed it is interesting that two people who worked for years on this measure and evaluated all the various possibilities for the mechanism are here to respond. Actual policy makers right here in the comments section! Using our real names! During off hours, of course.

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        While I commend the effort you and Jennifer have put behind this, it does mean it is correct. I have two kids in school and have seen Physical Education whittled down to two 20-25 minute classes/per week. I personally believe that PE is just as important to a child's education as the arts as we continue to see childhood obesity rise. Should we have another tax to make sure we have a robust physical education programs in all Portland schools? What is about a science tax to make sure every school has the proper and equal distribution of science equipment, which PPS has failed to deliver?

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          You raise a good question, Jeff. And if there aren't dramatic changes to the way we fund schools in this state, we very well might pay into the school system to support things we think are important that have been whittled away. Next time it might be PE. Right now it's the arts.

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      Sam has been pretty lopsided at times, but he has ALWAYS been The Children's Mayor. Give him time. He'll may yet do one more thing to actually earn that comment.

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    Can anyone explain the details of how the tax would be collected?

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      Individuals will file a tax return at the same time that federal and state taxes are due. The first payment – by mail or online – will be due in 2013. The Revenue Bureau of the City of Portland will oversee and process collections.

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      Hi, Paul. It appears that you are unfamiliar with the many ways that the ballet, symphony, Portland Art Museum, etc. support our youth. These largest organizations provide the lion's share of residencies, assemblies, and field trips in our constrained arts education system. That is why having the remaining 31% going to them makes so much sense! It will help them serve our youth AND the rest of the community through more free and reduced arts experiences!

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        Hogwash. Those efforts to support youth from those organizations are a minor pittance in compared to the overall costs of running those operations.

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        Well, Jeff... got an URL with some pictures, charts, arrows and diagrams that support your premise of how this works?

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        Jeff You are correct, I am unfamiliar. I had two children spend 11 years in the Portland Public School system, attending some higher income schools in the district (Duniway, Sellwood, Cleveland). I do not remember a single visit or experience with the symphony, ballet, or art museum. Both were involved in the arts.

        My two younger children have no logged 7 and 4 years in the system, and the older attends an arts magnet. He has never had a field trip, or visiting artist.

        So yes, paint me skeptical, unless you can point to specific expenditures by these organizations that specifically support community or youth education.

        Otherwise, it seems quite obvious that this dedicated tax will just replace City dollars that already flow from the general fund to RACC and then to the ballet, symphony, and art museum.

        I repeat: i have no complaint about these organizations. But no one has shown me a compelling reason that they deserve a dedicated tax revenue stream instead of the many other pressing needs in the PPS.

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    I think it's deeply ironic and unfortunate that people who make the minimum wage are being asked to fork up (as was pointed out earlier) a half-day's pay in order to fund the RACC's efforts to get them tickets to performances they may not be remotely interested in. I voted no because I believe it to be a regressive tax and because I think it's singularly inappropriate to fund RACC with such a tax.

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      Whoa. Whoa. whoa.

      Street Roots. Stop talking RACC and start talking the Street Roots endorsement. They represent the poorest of the poor. How is it you know more than they?

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    The authors claim that they "worked for years on this measure and evaluated all the various possibilities for the mechanism", and are here to respond.

    Were any other funding mechanisms than "$35 apiece" considered, and if so, what were those, and why were they rejected?

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