County schools ‘starved’ of arts just got a $1 million grant – and a vow to restore programs

The Sacramento County Office of Education will receive a $1 million state grant to fund arts programs in schools, officials announced Tuesday.

“We all recognize and acknowledge at the time that all of our artistic and cultural assets will be of little avail if the children in our schools are not exposed from their earliest years to high quality skill-based instruction in art, in music, in dance, in theater and in the digital and media arts,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg at a press conference to announce the award. “Without such focus, our kids are unlikely to become participants in the creative economy in the future.”

Steinberg, who has said arts education is a priority, helped facilitate the grant and said the money would be used as part of a county-wide effort to reinvigorate arts education in Sacramento.

“Student achievement is much more than test scores,” said David Gordon, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools. “It’s about helping students develop their own voices.”

Gordon said that an arts education is tied to better student performance, social and emotional development and civic engagement.

The grant will be used to train teachers in arts education, including visual and performing arts. All 13 school districts in Sacramento county are participating in the program. Each will choose a lead teacher to receive the initial training. That instructor will then help other teachers pursue arts education, according to Steinberg’s office.

The Sacramento Arts Education Consortium is working in partnership with the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission (SMAC), and Friends of SMAC to identify ways to implement arts education in each school.

In May of this year, Steinberg and local education leaders announced the consortium with the initial goal of providing one hour of arts instruction per week at schools in the county.

Steinberg said public schools in California “largely starved the arts” for over 40 years because of limited funding.

Proposition 13, passed in 1978, limits California property tax increases. Steinberg said that law allowed heavy cutbacks in public schools arts funding.

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Sawsan Morrar covers school accountability and culture for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She previously freelanced for various publications including The Washington Post, Vice, KQED and Capital Public Radio.