Wallace Foundation Hope for Arts Education

This past Friday, I provided opening remarks for an Arts Education and Racial Justice workshop. It was held as part of the Arts and Social Change Symposium I blogged about earlier.

I was struck by data presented during the workshop illustrating the significant imbalance   between arts education resources available for Seattle’s north end schools and those available for its south end schools. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the major influencing factor is income status.

Olympic View Elementary students at Seattle City Hall, 2003.

Arts education has been documented to increase student academic performance across the board. The lack of arts education resources for students who most need it has been a concern of mine for some time. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, the state legislature considered a bill I proposed that would have established a state-wide arts education funding program.

The idea was to transform the Washington State sports lottery, which was to expire upon paying off Safeco Field bonds in 2011, into an arts education lottery that would fund arts education programs equitably throughout the state, on a grant application basis. In 2007, it was estimated to generate annually beginning this year about $2.5 million for King County and $3 million for the rest of the state. Although the bill gained over 20 sponsors during each of those 3 legislative sessions, it never reached the floor for a vote.

Today, hope in addressing the persistent inequity in arts education access can be found in the work our Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs and Seattle Public Schools are undertaking. Their K-12 Arts Learning Collaborativebrings together the Seattle School District, the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs and community arts organizations in crafting a comprehensive arts plan intended to increase access to quality arts education for all K-12 students in Seattle.

In the summer of last year, The Wallace Foundation awarded the Collaborative a $1 million planning grant to figure out how to deliver meaningful arts education to all students in the Seattle school district, emphasizing those with the least access to arts.  Presently, the Collaborative is applying for an implementation grant to finish this work.

My fingers are crossed.

In the mean time, check out these reports on the Collaborative’s work to date.

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