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Want your kids to have arts and music? Here’s how

Food service workers serve lunch to students at Ethel Baker Elementary School in the Sacramento City Unified School District in April. Measure G, a parcel tax on the Nov. 8 ballot, would raise money for arts and music programs in the district.
Food service workers serve lunch to students at Ethel Baker Elementary School in the Sacramento City Unified School District in April. Measure G, a parcel tax on the Nov. 8 ballot, would raise money for arts and music programs in the district. Sacramento Bee file

Optimism lives in Sacramento City Unified public schools. In our classrooms are pencils, books and the most powerful school supply of all – the potential of 43,000 diverse students.

What they need is a chance to discover their potential. Some students begin to unlock their potential through traditional means such as finding the perfect book, researching a favorite topic or solving a complicated math problem. But many other students find their voice through artistic expression, creativity or by simply talking things through with caring school staff.

And that’s where Measure G comes in.

On the Nov. 8 ballot, the $75 parcel tax would raise $7 million a year to restore art, music and counseling programs that are essential to high-quality schools but were cut during the state budget crunch. Only one in five elementary schools have an art or music teacher and some are funded by parents. Only 22 of 77 schools have on-site student support centers. Measure G will also fund teacher training, technology resources and math and science instruction.

There was a point in the past when classrooms were places of discovery. A school day provided ample opportunities for students to find out what they were good at and what they loved. Art and music played a prominent role in daily student life. Teachers were fully supported so they could become inspirational role models for a new generation of creative thinkers.

Measure G will pay big dividends. Improved public schools will improve the values of our homes. A better educated workforce will lure more high-paying jobs to the city. If we want to prepare every student to make the transition from high school to college or fulfilling careers, we must invest in them. That’s why Measure G is supported by Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg and Sacramento teachers.

It also places accountability at the forefront. Measure G funds will be kept in a separate account, can only be used for priority programs and cannot be taken away by the state. A citizens oversight committee will ensure funds are properly spent. And voters will have the opportunity in six years to decide whether to renew Measure G.

The programs that will be funded by Measure G – art and music, technology, math and science, student counseling – can change lives. Art and music fuel creativity. Science and technology fuel ideas. And supporting each child’s needs fuels a sense of belonging. These are things our children need to reach their potential. It’s what Sacramento needs to reach its potential, too.

Stephanie Smith is a teacher at Fern Bacon Middle School in south Sacramento and was a 2016 Sacramento County teacher of the year. She can be contacted at stephaniemsmith2014@gmail.com.

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