City Beat

Schools have 'starved the arts,' Sacramento mayor says. Here's his solution

Public schools in California have "largely starved the arts" for the past 40 years, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said Wednesday. Now he's got a plan to change that situation.

Steinberg and local education leaders announced Wednesday the beginning of an organized campaign to raise money for arts education in county schools.

Backed by an initial fundraising effort of $250,000, the mayor launched the Sacramento Art Education Consortium that will work with all 13 school districts in the county.

Public schools rely heavily on tax revenue. Prop. 13, passed in 1978, limits property tax increases in the state, and Steinberg blamed that law on years of cutbacks to arts funding in public schools.

"We have not had enough of a specific focus on arts education," the mayor told a packed room of supporters at the Clara Midtown, a performance and rehearsal space that occupies a former school building. "To be a great city, we need to be about more than job creation, we need to be about more than sports. A great city also prioritizes arts and culture."

The first wave of funding came from the Friends of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. With it, the consortium will hire a fundraising professional to find grants and other funding sources to expand the program.

That money – paired with funding from local school districts – will go toward recruiting visual and performing arts coordinators and teachers, with a goal of providing at least one hour per week of arts instruction at schools in the county.

Councilman Steve Hansen and others described arts education as an equity issue, pointing out that low-income schools often do not have the resources to provide arts education.

Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar said his 10-year-old son asked him this week why there was so little arts education at his school.

“We have to address this,” Aguilar said. “We have to give an equal opportunity to students by funding arts and sports because that’s how you address issues of equity.”

Steinberg also helped broker a deal in November between the city school district and its teachers union by promising to raise more money for arts education through a 2020 ballot measure.