The Arts Education & Access Fund: Frequently Asked Questions and other resources



In 2008, a region-wide planning process engaged 1,500 leaders in developing a Creative Action Plan for the Portland Metropolitan Area called Act for Art. This vision for arts and culture in the region identified the need for a new dedicated annual fund for arts education and access. The Creative Advocacy Network (CAN) was established in 2008 to make this goal a reality. Four years later, CAN launched the Schools & Arts Together campaign in support of Measure 26-146. On November 6th, 2012, Portland residents approved ballot measure, 62%-38%, allowing the creation of the Arts Education and Access Fund.

The Arts Education and Access Fund is a new public fund, supported by a local income tax dollars, to restore arts and music education to every elementary school in Portland’s six school districts by providing stable, long-term funding for certified arts and music teachers and grants for arts access programs. This fund also supports established arts organizations city-wide to bring arts, culture and creativity to life for every Portland resident.

For a summary of grants awarded to nonprofit organizations, click here.

The Arts Education & Access Fund is administered by the City of Portland, which distributes proceeds to school districts in Portland and to RACC. For a summary of roles and responsibilities, download this document:
Summary of Key Tasks and Responsibilities (PDF)

Residents outside of Portland city limits and others who are not legally required to pay the tax can make a tax-deductible contribution to the Arts Education and Access fund here.


Q: Why is this fund needed?

A: In Portland in 2012 there were 11,596 children attending schools that do not have any art, dance, drama, and music instruction. In 2011 only 18% of Portland elementary schools provide art instruction compared to 83% nationally; only 58% of Portland elementary schools provide music instruction compared to 94% nationally. The rate of decline for arts education in Portland has been shockingly steep. In the last five years Parkrose and Centennial School Districts have cut their arts and music teaching staff by half, while Portland Public Schools has dropped all arts instruction in 22 schools in just two years.

In addition, arts organizations in Portland receive significantly less public support than their counterparts in other U.S. cities. More public funding will help arts organizations fulfill their obligations to make the arts accessible for every Portland resident.

Q: Who pays the new tax, and how much?

A: Every Portland resident age 18 and older whose household income is above the federal poverty level and whose personal income (not including Social Security) is $1,000 or more must pay the tax of $35. Certain other exemptions apply; visit for details.

Q: How much will be raised?

A: The City of Portland estimates that the Arts Education and Access Fund will raise $10 million annually by 2015.

Q: How and when will the money be collected?

A: The tax is effective beginning with the 2012 tax year. Individuals will file a tax return at the same time that federal and state taxes are due.  The City’s Revenue Bureau oversees this process and manages all collections. Visit for more information.

Q: Will there be oversight of these funds?

Yes. School districts and RACC will undergo annual independent audits. Also, an Independent Citizen Oversight committee, representative of the City’s diverse communities, has been established to annually review Fund expenditures and report the impacts to the public. The Citizen Oversight Committee meetings and minutes are posted at  

Q: How will the money be dispersed?

A: Based on the City’s Revenue Bureau annual revenue projection of $10 million, the Arts Education and Access Fund will be distributed approximately as follows:

Arts Education and Access Fund, approximately $10 million

AEAF piechart(2)


Approximately $6.7 million will pay for 68.5 certified arts education teachers in Portland’s school districts (Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose, Portland Public, Reynolds, and Riverdale). Districts receiving these funds are required to maintain weekly arts instruction in grades K-5.

By 2015, RACC should receive an estimated $2.8 million/year from this fund, to be invested accordingly:

  • $2.3 million to fund arts organizations that provide arts programming and access for every Portland resident through RACC’s general support grants program
  • $125,000 for “access grants” to schools and arts organizations that provide arts programming for K-12 students and underserved residents
  • $285,000 to coordinate arts education programs across Portland’s six school districts. Our partnership with the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child program will be our foundation for this work.

Distribution amounts will shift annually based on the net revenue of the fund and the cost of funding one certified arts teacher for every 500 elementary school students.

Q: How will RACC programs, including Work for Art and The Right Brain Initiative, be impacted?

This fund only benefits schools and arts organizations inside the City of Portland, but RACC provides important services throughout Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties.

  • While schools can apply for arts access funds (see below) to help pay for the cost of artist residencies associated with The Right Brain Initiative, this measure cannot be used to pay for other Right Brain expenses including professional development for artists and teachers; evaluation; and program administration.
  • This measure has no direct impact on Work for Art. Although it does raise the bar on public support for arts organizations, they still need to raise 95% of their budget through tickets and contributions, which Work for Art assists with.

The AEAF provides direct funding (up to 3% of net revenues) for RACC to coordinate arts education activities across school districts. The structuring of a new arts "education department” at RACC, also encompassing The Right Brain Initiative and Any Given Child, will depend heavily on the school districts’ input and needs, which are still being determined.

Q: What’s next for organizations that currently receive General Operating Support from RACC?

A: Because first year collections of a new tax are always a challenge, and because the hiring of teachers has first priority, RACC does not anticipate receiving significant funding from the AEAF until the spring of 2015.​

  • All current general support organizations received a small AEAF allocation in January, 2014.
  • RACC will receive its next allocation from AEAF in April of 2014. The allocation amount will depend on how many citizens pay their overdue tax in the first few months of 2014.
  • By 2015, RACC expects to be receiving $2.8 million annually from the arts education and access fund, to be invested as described above. RACC anticipates being able to fund all general support organizations near the goal of 5% of their eligible operating income by that time.

Q: What about smaller organizations that already receive 5% (or close to 5%) of their eligible operating income budgets from RACC?

A: RACC is working to identify other resources (such as Multnomah County dollars) so that all general support organizations can realize increased revenues as a result of the passage of this measure – perhaps up to 6 or 7% of eligible operating income for smaller organizations (those with annual budgets under $250,000).

Q: What must arts organizations do if they accept these funds?

A: In exchange for these funds, general support organizations will demonstrate how they are increasing service levels for youth and underserved communities in Portland. To fulfill our obligation to the voters and the oversight committee, RACC will have new reporting requirements asking grant recipients for more detail on where their services were delivered, and who benefited. RACC will continue to evaluate arts organizations based on artistic excellence, proven service to the community, administrative and fiscal competence and grant compliance.

For a summary of free and reduced cost admission opportunities to arts events in the Portland region, visit our new our Access to Arts and Culture page.

 Q: How and when will the new “access grants” be awarded?

RACC is funding a special round of “Expanding Cultural Connections” grants with $26,000 of the funding it received in January, 2014. RACC is also in the process of designing a new “access grants” program for the fall of 2014, possibly in conjunction with its established “project grant” cycle.  Watch for details.Over the next several months, RACC will be designing a new system for distributing “arts access” funds in FY15 and beyond.




National Endowment of the Arts report: “How the United States Funds the Arts” (3rd edition; November 2012)


Do you have questions that aren’t addressed on this page? Click here to submit your question to RACC and we will get back to you as soon as we can -- we may even post your question (and our answer) to this page.