Today Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge John A. Wittmayer largely dismissed the challenges to the City of Portland’s Arts Education & Access Fund ballot language, allowing the ballot measure to move forward to a citizen vote with one wording change. Replacing the word “capped” with “of”, the ballot title will now read: “Shall Portland restore arts, music for schools and fund arts through income tax of 35 dollars per year?”
Furthermore, Judge Wittmayer put questions of the legality of the proposed tax to rest by clarifying: “The proposed tax at issue here is not a head tax or a poll tax because it is not assessed per capita – it is assessed only upon income-earning individuals age 18 or older in households above the federal poverty guidelines.”
“We are thrilled to be proceeding to the ballot with a proposal that will restore arts and music teachers to Portland’s elementary schools and provide vital grants to schools and non-profits,” said Creative Advocacy Network Executive Director Jessica Jarratt Miller. “The rate of decline for arts education here has been shockingly steep. In the last five years, two of Portland’s six school districts (Parkrose and Centennial) have cut their arts and music teaching staff by half, while our largest district (Portland Public Schools) has dropped all arts instruction in 22 schools in just two years.”
The ballot language was challenged last month under a state law that allows electors to petition the circuit court for a different title by proving the original filed by the City to be insufficient, not concise or unfair. According to Oregon state law, the circuit court’s ruling is final and cannot be appealed.
“We appreciate this decision and are glad the measure can go forward so that the citizens of this city can decide for themselves. Today just two out of 10 elementary schools have an art teacher, and nearly 12,000 Portland students have no art, music, dance or drama in school stimulate economic development. National research links access to arts and music education to improved test scores, graduation rates and college admittance,” Mayor Sam Adams said. “This measure is also essential to our ability to develop a workforce equipped with the creative thinking and problem solving skills necessary to compete in a modern economy.”
With repeated polls reflecting support at above 70% for this proposal, the Creative Advocacy Network’s 501(c4) partner organization, the CAN Action Fund, will now register a political action committee called Schools & Arts Together to conduct a campaign in support of the Arts Education and Access Fund. This week Schools & Arts Together launched their website at SchoolsArtsTogether.com to rally supporters for the November ballot.
If approved by voters, the fund will restore arts and music teachers to every Portland elementary school and provide grants to schools and non-profits to fund the arts city-wide and increase access to the arts for school children and underserved communities. The Arts Education & Access Fund will raise approximately $12.6 Million annually through an income tax limited to $35 per year for adult, income-earning residents of Portland in households above the federal poverty level.
“Portland’s embarrassing lack of arts and music education in our public schools puts our kids’ future at risk. The Arts Education and Access Fund is a powerful and creative solution that will help keep students engaged in school and on track to graduate.” concludes Gwen Sullivan, President of the Portland Association of Teachers.
To read more about the current state of arts education in Portland, go to http://bit.ly/canreports. To learn more about the Schools & Arts Together Campaign, visit SchoolsArtsTogether.com or follow us on Facebook at SchoolsArtsTogether.
Jessica Jarratt Miller
Executive Director, Creative Advocacy Network