Our Students, Our Schools

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Tell your network:

Right on the heels of last week’s city examination of arts education, OPB ran a story looking how some schools are handling funding cuts by charging additional fees for arts classes and sports programming. For some, it’s an additional $25 fee for band; at others, it’s an additional $75 for sports. And while some schools offer exemptions for low-income students, others do not.

This is troubling for many reasons. Arts education has been recognized as a core component of public education offerings in America, at least as far back as the 1994 Educate America Act. Yet, with associated fees, these public programs become "public" for only those who can afford them.

It’s also well noted that arts and extracurriculars not only keep kids in school, but that they also keep them prepared for and engaged in other school subjects and skills. Yet, frequently, the students who need the most encouragement to stay in school are the ones who are least able to pay for these extras.

Check out Grammy Winner and Portland native Esperanza Spalding on the value of arts education

Add to that the fact that arts and sports provide valuable career training for many. Though those who grow up to win a Grammy or earn national accolades for their sports prowess are perhaps rarities, many businesses and corporations state that their number one desired quality in their employees is creativity, a skill well learned from arts and extracurriculars.

Unfortunately, as schools begin charging fees for arts, music, and sports classes and programming — or cutting them entirely — students suffer. Yet the problem is not at the school level; these issues are not limited to the schools featured in the OPB article. The problem comes from the state level, where education funding is determined. Districts and individuals schools are simply managing what they can with the limited funds that have been provided.


There is a great need to call on the state to provide greater support and resources for our schools. Luckily, if last week’s strong vocal recognition of the issue at Portland’s City Hall is any indication, individuals are becoming both more aware of and more vocal about the dire state of Oregon’s education system: that the issues are not limited to one geographical area or one class subject area. Schools across the entire state are struggling.

So who’s going to do something about it? During last year’s session, teachers, parents, and school advocates agreed that school funding was not adequate. But, while the Democrats asked to tap into the emergency education reserve fund, House Republican Leader Kevin Cameron (R-Salem) said that he and the Republican Caucus were happy with the K12 budget at its low levels. Due to the split Legislature, the Democrats were blocked in their attempts to release more funds for schools.

So, the nagging question remains. Our schools are struggling; now who’s going to do something about it?

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