A few weeks ago, the Creative Advocacy Network released the details of their plan to restore arts education to public schools. Today, Portland's real mayor and Portland's fake mayor both announced their support for the plan, which could be placed on the November ballot as soon as Wednesday.
We have a growing problem in our city: despite our national reputation as a creative community, arts and music education is rapidly disappearing from our schools. Currently, over 11,500 students in 26 schools have no access to certified instruction in art, music, dance or drama1 and only 18% of our elementary schools offer art instruction (compared to 83% nationally.)
Ours kids and communities deserve more. National research links access to arts and music education to improved test scores, graduation rates and college admittance: this is particularly true for lower-income and at-risk students. In 2010, 44% of Portland’s high school students did not graduate with their class2. We must do something about this.
The lack of arts education and funding holds our city back. Non-profit arts and culture organizations play a key role in the education of our children, the economic vitality of our region, and the livability of our city. We know that cities with thriving arts and culture communities attract businesses, develop a creative workforce and create economic development opportunities.
Next Wednesday, June 27, City Council will consider referring an Arts Education and Access Fund to the November 6 ballot. This fund would restore arts and music teachers to schools that serve grades K-5 in Portland and provide access programs and arts opportunities to all Portlanders.
This is an effort many years in the making. In 2008, we began a creative capacity planning effort to engage our educators, arts organizations, advocates and over 1,500 residents in creating Act for Art, the region’s first master plan for the arts in 20 years.
VIDEO ABOVE: Portlandia "Mayor" Kyle MacLachlan on why an Arts Education and Access Fund is essential for Portland to reach its potential.
From this process a new nonprofit group called the Creative Advocacy Network (CAN) emerged and they went to work researching best practices, conducting public outreach, and evaluating input from local schools in order to help solve the problem of diminished arts education and access funding in Portland.
Through CAN’s hard work and research, we have finally come up with a plan that will address the dwindling presence of arts in our schools.
Money for the Arts Education and Access Fund would come from an income tax on Portland residents 18 years and older that’s limited to 35 dollars per person, per year and subject to citizen oversight and independent audits. Low-income households would be exempt from paying this tax.
For just $35 a year, we can reverse the trend of seeing our band rooms empty, our arts programs dissolve and our graduation rates stall. The arts are simply too important for our children and our community.