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Last Friday, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Superintendent José Banda issued an announcement I’ve been waiting for years to hear: Seattle Public Schools is launching a district-wide arts education program.
In making the announcement, he acknowledged SPS has not been providing equitable arts access to their students. In fact, it’s rare for any public school in Washington State to offer an arts curriculum on an equal footing as other curricula.
That’s why between 2007 and 2009 I proposed to the State legislature a state-wide arts education program to be funded by both an expiring baseball stadium admissions tax and a food and beverage tax. However, the legislature decided to re-directed those expiring taxes for other purposes.
SPS was encouraged to prioritize arts education by both the City’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs (OACA) and the Wallace Foundation, which provided the school district a $1 million grant in 2011. The grant allowed the school district to complete a comprehensive plan to institute a city-wide arts education program with the goal of bringing high-quality arts education to every student, every year, in every school.
Strengthening SPS’s application to the 2011 Wallace planning grant was the 2008 OACA/ SPS partnership initiative focused on bringing quality dance, music, theater and visual arts education to every student, with special emphasis on lower income communities and communities of color. OACA will continue to work with SPS to advance high quality arts education in our public schools.
The school district begins its district-wide art education program with a pilot in the Central area for K-12 students. They will evaluate and adjust the pilot project, if needed, before scaling it for implementation in every Seattle school.
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