Every Portland elementary school now has an arts teacher, thanks to the arts tax

Before the arts tax, Sitton Elementary in St. Johns didn't have a full-time arts specialist. Now, students receive weekly instruction from art teacher Carlos Baca.

Find stories about the impact of the tax online in April at #pdxlovesart

PORTLAND, ORE —In November 2012, 63% of Portland voters overwhelmingly passed Ballot Measure 26-146 to create the Arts Education & Access Fund, now known as the “arts tax.” The tax directly funds 72 K-5, music, dance and visual art teachers in the city’s six school districts: Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose, Reynolds and Riverdale School Districts and Portland Public Schools. Thanks to the $35 income tax, every elementary school in the City of Portland currently has at least one art, music or dance teacher on staff.

“The arts tax has nearly tripled the number of elementary arts teachers in Portland and we’re so proud of this early success. On that score, Portlanders got what they voted for,” said Eloise Damrosch, executive director of the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). “Cities all over the nation are eager to replicate this sustainable funding stream for arts education.”

Arts Tax by the Numbers

  • In the 2012-13 school year – before Portland districts began receiving arts tax funds – City of Portland elementary schools had 31 arts teachers. By 2015-16, the total number of K-5 arts teachers has increased to 91.
  • Ballot Measure 26-146 ensures one arts teacher for every 500 students. As of 2015-16, districts have beat that promise, providing one arts teacher for every 398 students across the City.
  • Portland Public Schools has more than quadrupled its number of elementary arts teachers, jumping from 15 teachers in 2012-13 to 64 in 2015-16.

A total of $6,820,136 in arts tax funding went to Portland elementary schools in 2015-16. Broken down by district, total allocations are:

$4,558,212 – Portland Public Schools
$956,169 – David Douglas School District
$541,171 – Centennial School District
$393,788 – Reynolds School District
$324,847 – Parkrose School District
$45,950 – Riverdale School District

In addition to the arts tax dollars funneled to school districts for teacher salaries, $139,000 of the fund goes to RACC for arts education coordination expenses. RACC now offers professional development workshops for music and arts teachers hired through the arts tax, at no cost to districts. This training helps arts teachers connect their work to Common Core State Standards, and collaborate with colleagues in their buildings. RACC is also building new ways to connect the cultural resources of Portland to local schools.

The remaining dollars raised through the tax funds much-needed general operating expenses for local arts organizations, and projects that increase access to the arts for underrepresented communities. As tax collections increase, RACC will allocate additional funds to these causes.

The arts tax is due Monday, April 18 for City of Portland income earners at bit.ly/pdxlovesart. Read more about the arts tax at http://bit.ly/ArtsTaxFAQ.

Stories about the impact of arts tax-funded teachers can be found online throughout the month of April at #pdxlovesart.

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The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) provides grants for artists, nonprofit organizations and schools in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties; manages an internationally acclaimed public art program; raises money and awareness for the arts through Work for Art, a workplace giving program; convenes forums, networking events and other community gatherings; provides workshops and other forms of technical assistance for artists; and oversees a program to integrate arts and culture into the standard curriculum in public schools through The Right Brain Initiative. RACC values a diversity of artistic and cultural experiences and is working to build a community in which everyone can participate in culture, creativity and the arts.