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 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 ["Portrait of an Arts Tax," WW, Oct. 3, 2012]. As a teacher, a PPS parent and the president of the Portland Association of Teachers, my answer is absolutely yes.

Measure 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 $1.6 million in grant funds to schools and nonprofits. And it will fund teachers on special assignment to coordinate arts education opportunities for every K-12 student. 

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 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 and Culture Council. I believe this package is made stronger with RACC's inclusion.

RACC's funding of teachers on special assignment, art supplies, K-12 arts programs and arts field trips are essential components of this arts education package. The remaining 31 percent of the fund that RACC will invest in arts access is a vitally important investment for our city. It will further support arts education by funding organizations such as Children's Healing Art Project, Oregon Children's Theatre, Portland Youth Philharmonic, Young Audiences, Ethos Music Center, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Northwest Children's Theater, and Tears of Joy Theatre.

Some have suggested 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 endorsed Measure 26-146: "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."

Every tax has its problems. But I believe 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.

Gwen Sullivan, Portland Public Schools teacher
President, Portland Association of Teachers

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