Voters in Portland, Ore., Say Yes to New Arts Education Tax

By Erik W. Robelen — November 07, 2012 1 min read
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You’ll no doubt be paying attention to plenty of other election outcomes today, but here’s one you may have missed: Voters in Portland, Ore., have agreed to tax themselves to help pay for arts education.

To my knowledge, this was the only such measure on the ballot across the nation.

The ballot measure, which had sparked some divisions in the arts-friendly, left-of-center city, levies a $35 annual tax on all income-earning adults living above the federal poverty line.

(For complete coverage of elections around the country and their implications for education, check out EdWeek‘s Campaign 2012 page.

The Portland proposal had sparked some debate even in liberal circles because of what critics called a “regressive” design that essentially imposed the same tax on the wealthy and those just getting by. Some also had questioned how much of the money would actually reach schools.

But in the end, those arguments apparently did not hold sway with the majority of Portland voters. It was approved by a full 60 percent of voters.

The arts measure has been estimated to raise $12 million each year. Some of that money would be used to hire art and music teachers in public elementary schools in six Portland districts. In addition, a portion would provide grants to nonprofit arts organizations and other entities to make arts and cultural offerings more widely available.

Portland voters, apparently feeling pretty generous toward education, also approved a $482 million bond measure to rebuild and upgrade school buildings in the Portland district.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.