Can We Ask Tax Payers to Support the Arts, PE, and Science in Portland Schools? (by Guest Blogger Lindsay Simonsen)

Janice PostThe Portland Arts Tax was put into play just this year and is to help teachers and non-profit organizations that have a focus on art. This is a $35 income tax that all Portland residents must pay, unless they are below the federal poverty line. This bill was easily passed, however, as the 2013 due date for taxes arrived, difficulties set in. There were many issues with who should be eligible (originally they said anyone 18 years or older), and then there were illegal actions regarding Social Security. Also, there is the major problem of not everyone filing who is supposed to. All this ended up costing the fund the bill was going to help about $1 million. This article helps explain it in more detail (


Should Oregon have waited another year or so before taxing us for this bill? Do you think this bill is really worth all the complications? Why or why not? And if you think this bill will be beneficial, should we think about creating a science or physical education or another bill that will benefit a certain subject? Or is that asking too much out of us taxpayers?


11 thoughts on “Can We Ask Tax Payers to Support the Arts, PE, and Science in Portland Schools? (by Guest Blogger Lindsay Simonsen)

  1. I think any attempt to fund our schools is worth considering, personally. Combine that with a focus on the arts and I am double sold. (Disclaimer: I am a theater nerd, a professional theatrical props designer and do not live in the area affected by this tax.) I am also a proponent of the “If everyone gave a dollar” point of view. Enough drops in the bucket will still fill it to overflowing. I find it cynically amusing how much time, effort and money some people are willing to put in to fighting giving up their tiny little drop.

    Funding specific programs through dedicated taxes has some appeal and somewhat smacks of “funded items” at school auctions I’ve attended. Perhaps a dedicated tax that goes partially to support general or facility expenses, but with a portion that the taxpayer can designate to a specific program? This would benefit schools overall and allow for taxpayers to voice their interests/preference for how their money gets spent as well.

    • My biggest problem with funding the arts, PE, and the like with this kind of tax is that it doesn’t create enough revenue to really solve the problem of funding. One art teacher per 500 students is still not enough, and there’s a sense that “hey, we paid that arts tax so now we don’t have to worry about it anymore,” which makes me uncomfortable. The arts are not fully funded in most public schools, nor are PE, science, etc. Until we find a way to adequately (or, dare I say, amply) fund these things), we will not be able to serve equitably or with the kind of rich curriculum that students love and deserve.

      • I remember discussing this in class–while this idea seems helpful and positive in theory, in practice it simply doesn’t play out. This turns the idea into a cop-out or a quick fix rather than a long-term investment that actually solves the problem. We are not doing enough to serve our students and provide them with an education and curriculum they are in dire need of. We have to do more.

  2. I agree with Zapoura: “Find a way to adequately fund these things” creating a bill as such, I feel is just solving a the problem on a short-term basis.

  3. I think that the intention is good, and I do believe that anything to support the schools is worth considering, but I do not think that this bill is going to solve the problem. However, it may just be the first step in a series of solutions to solve the real problem at hand.

    • I totally agree with you Tyler. I think this is a step in the right direction, but they should have put more time into who would have to pay the taxes and have everyone on the same page because I think that it is crazy that the art programs and music programs are being cut. I think we need these courses, so again I think it is a step in the right direction.

  4. The arts are important, there is no doubt about it, so the biggest question is where are we going to get the money from? I think everyone helping out a little sounds like a great beginning, but it is definitely not the solution. I like Andy’s idea of the taxpayers having a choice as to which program there money is going to fund. I also agree with Zapoura that taxpayer contributions isn’t a long-term solution and could develop a stagnate movement in bettering these programs support. As a person from a lower income family I understand the drive to fight against any increase in taxes. $35 dollars is $35 dollars that can go toward more important things for my family, like getting a new roof because our old one is starting to fail. So if money isn’t coming from taxpayers were back into the dilemma of where is the funding’s going to come from? Honestly I don’t know. It is complicated, but I’d be willing to help where I can because these programs shouldn’t be taken out.

  5. I think art in school is one of the most very important part of school. I know that is horrible that many schools are losing it because I think kids need it as a way to express themselves and an outlet for many who do not fit in. But saying that it is expensive to fund so many programs I know in my high school we were very lucky to keep our theater program but that in part was because of us students. We fundraised and through our shows we put on helped fund our supplies plus we had a very clever teacher who applied and received many grants to keep our program going strong. But the complications with this tax and people paying more money is hard. I know this is tough times for all and that extra money can be used for other things but I know if I wasn’t in my theater program high school would had been a lot different for me and more difficult because I wouldn’t feel like I fit in anywhere.

  6. Most people do not like the word “tax” so when the public sees that they have to pay another tax for the arts in schools, it probably gets a negative image. I wish there was another way for the public to help fund the arts in schools without is being a mandatory tax. There are still so many issues, obstacles, and finalizing to do that I think there should be a few more years before the tax is set in place. But overall I wish there was another way to get funding. Children love art in schools, it is a way for to learn without the classic lecture class setting. If art is not funded and taken out of schools, children will loose a chance at creativity, imagination, and fun! The public needs to become aware of the importance of art and maybe a mandatory tax won’t be needed, voluntary donations may start.

  7. I like the idea of a tax for the arts and other things that are being/ have been cut from schools. Like Zapoura said, one little tax is not going to be enough money to create a good art program. Lindsay, your first question was should Oregon have waited? Yes, I think this tax was rushed and not completely thought through. I think issues could have been avoided if Oregon had just waited a year.

  8. The idea of having tax payers help fund these subjects is a great way to bring it back to a local level. They had mentioned in the article that they plan to tweak the bill but may or may not mention what they are tweaking to the tax payers, which I consider to be a not so good idea. I think this bill is worth keeping for now, since it is bringing revenue to the schools, and for politicians to reform the areas that need to be fixed as an ongoing process. I think it is crucial to bring the community in on what they are paying for and, in doing so, the community can determine if they are willing to fund more subjects, such as P.E.

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