Letter From Mayor Darrell Steinberg
October 4, 2018
Re: The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant (SSAE)
It is with great pleasure I write to support the grant application of the Sacramento County Office of Education for funding from the competitive grant program entitled Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant. I am told that the intent of the program is to provide funding for arts education and student well-being which is particularly timely given that the Sacramento County Superintendent, Dave Gordon and I have recently initiated a partnership designed to re-invigorate arts education in the 13 school districts in our County and are seeking resources to implement its initial objectives.
As one of my first acts as mayor of the City of Sacramento, which is the cultural hub of our county and the surrounding region, I sought the development of a cultural plan to ultimately guide future investments in arts and culture in our City. After a year of exhaustive study, polling, interviews with stakeholders and countless community meetings, the consultants retained to guide the planning process reported to me that the number one aspiration of our people was to restore arts education in our schools. Our citizens realized that many of the nourishing arts and music opportunities they had enjoyed in their own school experience were no longer available in the schools attended by their children.
At the same time, we began making major investments in several of the cultural assets in our City, such as the transformation of our Community Center Theatre, an upgrade to our venerable Memorial Auditorium, expansion of our Crocker Art Museum and increasing funding for arts related nonprofits. But it occurred to us that such expenditures of taxpayer money would be to no avail if students in our schools were not being sufficiently exposed to or receiving standards- based instruction in the various art forms. There would be no future audiences, no patrons and no artists to fuel the creative economy of our City where we are already observing the “graying” of those currently participating in our arts and culture scene.
And so, County Superintendent Gordon and I have invited all 13 of the school district superintendents in our County to form a consortium of stakeholders to develop a robust plan to strengthen pre-K through eighth grade arts education programs where they exist to any degree and to reboot programs in districts where they have been deactivated over time. The consortium also includes representatives of all the arts and culture related nonprofits in the County which provide artists in residence and other types of educational outreach to the schools. Our aim is to use a collective impact model to coalesce all the heretofore siloed parties of interest around the singular objective of providing comprehensive arts education to children at the ages where it can be most effective in enriching their school experience and ultimately, their lives.
Over the next two years we will strive to see to it that every school district in our county has a designated VAPA lead and has begun the development of a strategic plan for how they intend to gradually strengthen existing programs or initiate them where they do not exist. I have pledged to partner with other stakeholders in raising the funds necessary to stimulate progress through external matching grants to participating school districts. We will work with surrounding higher education partners to increase the number of credentialed teachers with authorization to provide instruction in the five mandated arts disciplines. And we will promote professional development in arts integration for regular classroom teachers, so they can feel more confident in using art activity and expression as tools in the teaching of other subject matter.
We are aware of the data that show irrefutably the impact that the arts have on children. Those who have arts educational opportunity in their schools attend more regularly, graduate in greater numbers, learn other subject matter more readily and have fewer disciplinary issues. Most importantly, they more often profess to enjoy going to school and to having a greater sense of well-being.
Much of my legislative career that pre-dated my service as mayor was devoted to the development of state and local mental health programs; all of which recognize both the preventative and therapeutic impact of art, music, dance, theatre, writing and other art forms. But I am far more interested in the prevention side when well-rounded educational programs provide immersion in the visual and performing arts and skillful instruction in how to use personal artistic expression as a path to self-confidence, optimism and joy. Psychologists tell us that art expression is a path to inner peace and when manifested outwardly and collectively it leads to a more peaceful community.
Some may ask why a mayor is promoting arts education when it is primarily the responsibility of the schools. The answer is simple. The fate of a city is inextricably intertwined with the health and success of the schools preparing its future citizens. While it has become a cliché, it really does take a village.
Our Consortium is the village we have created to bring soul nourishing art back into the lives of our children and future citizens and I hope you will consider a motivational and inspirational boost to our efforts by fully funding our County Office of Education’s grant request.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg