Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #246: Funding Art in Public Schools

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata with assistance from my Legislative Assistant Frank Video.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.



Art in our public schools has become the step child in the classroom. It has been relegated to the back row, something less important than the basics of education: reading, writing and arithmetic. But art offers a student something that the others do not as easily: a means of expression that validates a student’s self worth. It can come at a time in many teenagers’ lives when that is a most welcome tonic for depression, rejection and doubt about their status in life and their future.

According to “Living the Arts through Language + Learning: A Report on Community based Youth Organizations” (Shirley Brice Heath, Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Americans for the Arts Monograph, 1998), young people who regularly participate in the arts are 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement; 4 times more likely to win an award for school attendance; and 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their school.

For this reason I have pursued state legislation that can open up new opportunities for students across the state’s public schools to access art education and experience the power of exercising their imagination. It accomplishes this feat by funding a dedicated revenue stream for funding partnerships among cities, counties, public schools and districts, art institutions and organizations and artists.

Specifically it does two things:

One, it redirects lottery proceeds currently dedicated to paying baseball stadium bonds to a School Arts Program when the bonds have been retired.

Second, it directs the Washington State Arts Commission to establish a School Arts Program Committee and a competitive grant process to support arts-infused curriculum, programs, and projects in public schools.

An analysis of the legislation prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations provides most of the following summary of the legislation.

The Executive Director of the Commission designates a School Arts Program Committee (Committee) of five members. The Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) appoints two members, the Executive Director appoints two members, and the fifth member is selected by the other members. Beginning in 2012-13, the Committee establishes an annual grants process to institute and sustain arts-infused curriculum, programs, and projects in public schools.

Programs funded through the grants must assist students in making connections to other disciplines, learn about other cultures, and strengthen communities through the use of the arts. Cities, counties, nonprofit arts agencies, artists, public schools, school districts, and Educational Service Districts (ESDs) can apply for the grants. Applications must include at least one arts organization or artist and at least one school. To the maximum extent possible, grants are distributed based on enrollment in the nine ESDs. No more than 3.5 percent may be expended for administration.

When lottery revenues cease to be distributed for debt service on the baseball stadium bonds, that portion of revenues is deposited in the School Arts Programs Account, which is created in the State Treasury. Expenditures must be authorized jointly by two Committee members, one appointed by the SPI and one appointed by the Commission Director. An appropriation is not needed for expenditure of funds. Funds will not become available until fiscal year 2012 and it is expected to be around $5.5 million.

Two identical bills (HB 2500 & SB 6314) representing this legislation have had hearings in their respective chambers. A presentation to lawmakers was provided by Una McAlinden of ArtsEd Washington; Laura Ploudre, Principal at Parkwood Elementary School in Shoreline; Doug Poage, Principal at Riverview School in Carnation, and music teacher Linda Luebke and public testimony was provided by Fern Tresvan, Vancouver School For the Arts; Robert Butts, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and; Kris Tucker, Washington State Arts Commission. No one spoke against the bill in either hearing.

Today, January 23rd, a briefing on this legislation was provided to my Culture, Civil Rights, Health and Personnel City Council committee, by Una McAlinden – ArtsEd Washington Executive Director, and Carri Campbell – Seattle Public School Visual & Performing Arts Program Manager. “National research shows the most critical factor in sustaining arts education in schools is the active involvement of the community.” said Ms. McAlinden. “This bill would be the catalyst to create and grow such unique school and community partnerships in Seattle and all across the State.”

You can see a video of the meeting at the Seattle Channel web site scrolling down to find the link for my Culture, Civil Rights, Health and Personnel committee.

You can track the progress of the bills in the state legislature by visiting:

Although this is a short legislative session, there is a chance this arts education bill will pass this session due to the leadership of the legislation’s two prime sponsors, Representative Phyllis Kenney and Senator Rosemary McAuliffe. They deserve recognition for their hard work and if you have the time, please drop them a note of thanks: &

Please contact other legislators if you support this legislation to let them know, because nothing is certain. You can find your legislator and his or her contact information here.

Keep in touch…

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