Okay everyone, we have a problem.
It’s been a while since I last posted. Over a year to be exact. As many of you know, I’ve been busy!
Last year, I ran a campaign for the San Francisco Unified Board of Education (and WON!) On the campaign trail, I shared my vision of bringing more transparency and accountability to our district. Now that I’m a Board of Education Commissioner, and as Chair for the Budget and Business Services Committee, I have made it my utmost responsibility to ensure our school district’s budget is clear, accurate and equitable.
As a former classroom teacher, and as a current parent, it is crucial that every last dollar reaches our schools. As Commissioners, we are charged with ensuring the district is accountable — the public deserves to know how their taxpayer dollars are spent in service of our students.
We need to talk about the Arts budget.
In response to parent and community questions, I am creating transparency about our budget so families, teachers and community members understand how our district is funding arts programming.
Much of this is funded by SFUSD’s Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) program.
Huge support for the Arts in our schools
Actually, San Francisco’s public schools are very, very lucky. Throughout the Great Recession and even now, our Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF) has allowed our district to provide arts and music programming that many other California districts cannot.
PEEF is voted for and funded by the residents of San Francisco. We are so fortunate to have these extra resources!
But I have questions
As part of my work for the Budget committee, I’ve been looking at the PEEF budget. Out of all our expenditures, Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) has one of the largest chunks of the PEEF budget — $15 million dollars.
As I look closely at the VAPA budget, I can see discrepancies in where the money is going. I’ve been asking about these for a while now, from the folks who are in charge of the VAPA budget. (See some questions here, here, and here.)
So far, I’m not getting clear answers.
As I mention in this video, my daughter showed me broken violins in her 4th grade instrumental music program. Now in 8th grade her art teacher says she has already spent $600 of her own money to buy art supplies. This is not OK!
More importantly, I’m worried about these unanswered questions about the VAPA budget:
- Why did we budget $20,000 in 2018-19 for a consultant to collect and redistribute student art for the art festival? (See the 2018-19 Consultant Budget.)
- What was the rationale for spending roughly $200,000 ($100,000 of it PEEF funds) to hire consultants to revise the SFUSD Arts and Education Master Plan (AEMP) when VAPA already employs FIVE administrators (at a cost of roughly $1.5 Million). This number of administrators is 2.5x higher than any other content area department!
- Why can’t staff provide Commissioners and PEEF Community Advisory Committee Members with a Consultant Budget for 2019-2020 when the Board already approved their 2018-2019 budget in the PEEF Annual Expense Plan?
As a result of questions from Commissioners and the PEEF Community Advisory Committee, VAPA administration has informed us that it will no longer pay for consultants to do website design, revise our education master plan, or support administrative staff in teacher evaluations.
While I’m happy VAPA is stating it will redirect funds, the outstanding question remains: What does VAPA propose to do with this money, when the PEEF CAC and Board of Education have already approved their budget?
I am a future parent of two Ruth Asawa SOTA students and a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. I am a strong proponent of arts and music education. (I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t have graduated college without the arts.)
Remember – this is taxpayer money
The people of San Francisco pay into the PEEF fund through taxes. In response to many parent and community questions, I am creating transparency about the VAPA budget so families, teachers and community members understand how our district is funding arts programming.
Yes, I support VAPA. In fact, I’ve been writing about the importance of Arts and Music education since I started this blog. (See my posts here.) I also support solid fiscal management of the vital resources that fund VAPA teachers, instruments, and art supplies.
I’m simply doing the work I was elected to do. I will continue demanding clear answers about where all of the VAPA taxpayer money goes.
And I’m doing this work because I believe in San Francisco’s public schools. With that faith — and with more transparency — I know we can work together to ensure VAPA’s budget does in fact reach all our students..
Staff Response to Comissioner Collins on 5-17-19
This past Friday, VAPA district staff provided the following responses to questions. Thus far, staff have still not been able to explain how consultant spending connects with budget line items in the 2018-19 budget. Additionally, district staff have not been able to produce a consultant budget to explain planned spending for the 2019-20 year. This is concerning as the Board already approved next year’s budget this past April, 2019.
Read more about the importance of music and arts instruction:
- Our budget for the arts? We can do better.
- Black Violin — Challenging Stereotypes about Classical Music and Who Plays It
- Investing in Music Education Is Smart!
- Survey: Assessing the Quality of Instrumental Music Education in SFUSD
- Let’s Ask the Kids–Gathering Input from Kids about School Enrichment Programs