City Council to vote on amendment to Arts Education and Access Income Tax code

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An administrative change to Portland’s Arts Education and Access Fund would direct the City Arts Program to manage arts education coordination for Portland’s six school districts, improve oversight of voter investments and strengthen collaboration between school districts and among arts teachers.

Update: City Council voted Oct. 19 to amend the Arts Education and Access Income Tax code, transitioning the coordination of arts education in local schools to the City Arts Program.

City Commissioners this month are considering an ordinance to amend the Arts Education and Access Income Tax code, transitioning the coordination of arts education in local schools to the City Arts Program.

The Arts Education and Access Fund, commonly known as the “Arts Tax,” was established by Portland voters in 2012 to restore arts education in six local public school districts and to expand residents’ access to arts and culture.

Funded through an income tax of $35 per year, a portion of the Arts Tax ensures coordination and funding for at least one arts teacher at every elementary school in Portland’s six public school districts: Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose, Portland Public, Reynolds and Riverdale.  

“It is my firm belief as an educational leader that no school experience is complete without access to arts education,” said Guadalupe Gurrero, Superintendent of Portland Public Schools.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council currently receives Arts Tax disbursements to oversee arts education coordination in schools, award grants to nonprofit arts organizations in Portland and fund special projects that expand arts access for underserved Portland communities.

An update to the Arts Education and Access Income Tax code would shift the arts education coordination function from the Regional Arts & Culture Council to a newly created position within the City Arts Program, with the goal of improving data tracking and reporting along with providing an increased level of professional art education coordination and collaboration between the districts and among arts educators.  

“With 10 years behind us since the original passage of this tax measure, and given how the work with our schools has changed over the years, it is time for a structure change that will enable increased accountability and support of the oversight and education coordination functions for the next set of years,” Commissioner Rubio stated in a City Council meeting Oct. 12 as she introduced the ordinance.  

City Council heard a first read of the ordinance and public testimony on Oct. 12, and a vote is expected Oct. 19.

If the ordinance is passed, Commissioner Rubio’s office and the City Arts Program will invite stakeholders, including the school districts, to help co-create the new job description and participate in the interview process.

“It’s the City’s responsibility to ensure we’re transparently fulfilling the promise of the Arts Tax — to voters, to school districts and to our future artists and leaders,” Rubio said.