Diana Toledo: Eliminate Arts & Culture, 4Culture; Put $ Into Public Schools
On Sunday (June 26th), King County Council candidate Diana Toledo released a letter calling upon Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine to “dissolve the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the 4Culture agencies and put that money into Arts programs in the Public Schools.”
As many of our Readers may recall, Toledo lost to Joe McDermott last Fall by a 68% to 31.5% margin in her bid for the county council district number 8 position. The B-Town Blog sponsored candidates forums in 2010 featuring Toledo vs McDermott, which you can read about (and listen to audio recordings of) here.
Toledo is running again for the same council seat, facing off against McDermott and Goodspaceguy. The primary election is set for Aug. 16th.
4Culture is a tax-exempt public development authority (PDA) cultural services agency for King County. The majority of its funding comes from a portion of lodging tax revenues collected in King County. Since 1990, 4Culture has channeled these resources back into the local economy to help develop a thriving cultural community that serves visitors, residents and businesses.
The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture is a division of the City of Seattle, and according to its website, “promotes the value of arts and culture in and of communities throughout Seattle. By fostering and investing in the creative contributions of our artist citizens to every facet of the community, we engage the creativity in every resident and build a healthy and vibrant Seattle.”
Here’s Toledo’s full letter:
Art Funding For Youth, Not Cultural Elites
I am calling upon Mayor McGinn and KC Executive Constantine to dissolve the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the 4Culture agencies and put that money into Arts programs in the Public Schools.
As a mother of three beautiful children I am concerned that our youth do not have the same access to Arts programs that we had growing up. During the early years of development is it crucial that our children are engaged in the creative processes that allow for the expression or originality, development of individuality, and the building of positive self esteem in a safe learning environment.
Currently, our children’s Principals do not receive a designated amount for Arts funding in K-12 King County Public Schools. Instead, each school Principal must sacrifice Math, English, or Technology programs in order to cover the cost of bringing Arts back to their school.
One way schools have found to work around this problem is by partnering with local community Arts programs; allowing use of the school classrooms and grounds to outside groups who offer Art related activities. Although some of these programs are very nice; the quality of programs, volunteer instructors, and classroom environment is not always consistent. And although most of these groups are funded by our tax dollars they are not bound by the same rules and regulations that a public school teacher is. Nor are these instructors required to receive the same certification, education, communication, and conflict resolution training that a public school teacher does. If our children’s school is lucky enough to have one of these programs teaching Arts onsite, the program and the instructor quality cannot be guaranteed. We must bring Arts back to the Public School curriculum!
Bring Art Teachers Back To Public Schools!
I believe that exposure to Arts at an early age helps build a bridge across racial, cultural and economical barriers. I believe providing Arts programs in our public schools allows and encourages children to interact with others, make new friends, break down stereotypes, and receive positive feedback from their peers in a safe environment. Sadly, we’ve seen Arts in Public Schools nearly eliminated over the past few years; even as millions upon millions of dollars in taxes go to fund elitist public art projects.
As cutbacks in our public schools result in teacher lay-offs and Art program eliminations, taxpayers are forced to fund the Office of Arts & Culture, the King County 4Culture Offices, and the City and County Government’s 1% for public arts programs.
Housed in the beautiful Seattle Municipal Tower; the Office of Arts & Culture share a floor with several other Executive Departments with duplicate management and administrative staff. Look down the street and you will find the King County 4Culture offices, offering many of the same services that the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture does. These prime real estate locations currently used by the Executive Offices could be made available to the private sector and would bring in even more money to help us get a handle on our out-of-control budget deficit.
It’s estimated that between the Office of Arts & Culture and King County 4Culture there is an approximately $20 million dollar yearly budget. Dissolving the agencies and putting those funds into public school Arts programs would eliminate the massive administrative staff fees and free up a larger amount of funding to make it to the children.
Although I love the Arts; I recognize it is not the responsibility of the government or the taxpayers to fund adults who choose the artist-lifestyle. Adult artists should be held to the same standard as accountants, bricklayers, or other working-class heroes; they must be able to compete in the marketplace based on providing a desired service. We must instead use our limited funds to educate and expose our youth to the Arts; and the public schools are the best place to do this.
As someone with strong ties to King County’s artist community I’ve often heard concerns and accusations of biased grant and funding systems, favoritism, quid pro-quos, and a climate that rewards waste and upside-down priorities in the Office of Arts & Culture and the King County 4Culture programs; this has many people saying that if nothing else, a major audit is needed.
I believe that funding of the Arts with the aim of increasing children’s creativity is appropriate; and that the best way to expose children to the Arts is to do so through the Public School system. We can no longer afford to fund the lifestyles of a few elites at the expense of our children’s education. It’s time to cut this waste and invest our tax dollars in our children.
The Office of Arts & Culture recently released a letter citing several studies supporting our belief that “greater involvement in the arts in middle and high school associates with higher level of achievement and college attainment, volunteerism and political participation.” – James Catterall (download and read PDF of OOAC Letter)
The Office of Arts & Culture’s document supports my argument that we must return Arts to the Public Schools. However, I disagree that the money must first process through their office. I don’t believe that we should filter millions in tax payer money through the bureaucracy of the Office of Arts & Culture office so that we can eventually squeeze a few thousand dollars to the Public Schools. Let’s eliminate the middle man and get the money directly to the Public School Arts programs.