Oakland might suspend cultural arts program

UPDATE: The city council spared the cultural arts funding. Read the Trib story here.


The Oakland school district isn’t the only local institution struggling to stay out of the red; the city has a $42 million budget deficit.

And tomorrow night, to help balance the books, the City Council might decide to temporarily stop funding its Cultural Arts Department, which gives grants to programs at more than 20 Oakland schools.

The Prescott Circus Theatre, the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA), Stagebridge and the Oakland Youth Chorus are among those potentially affected by this decision.

Here is a full list of the programs that receive Cultural Arts Program grants, and the schools that they serve.

Lori Zook, acting chair of city’s Cultural Affairs Commission, is circulating a petition to save the programs. You can read the Tribune article about the budget crisis, by my colleague Kelly Rayburn, here.

Do you think the city council should spare the arts department? If so, what should they cut instead?

photos from Prescott Circus and MOCHA

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Sue

    I wouldn’t know what to cut, but I hope they can figure out how to save arts programs.

    “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it” – Bertolt Brecht

  • Nextset

    Sue: Art is optional. It’s nice if you can afford it. But when the budget is cut it is the obligation of the district to live within the budget. And clean bathrooms trumps Art. So does school security, minimum teacher staffing, utilities and essential building maintenance. The list goes on, “Art” has no priority at all.

    We are going to see unprecedented budget cuts by the municipalities. Art and football just might have to be suspended for the duration. Let’s hope that 911, fire and ambulance is kept at current levels – because that’s becoming unlikely also.

    The Art programs may have to become volunteer programs run by the PTA’s – for the schools that have PTA’s.

  • Sue

    I disagree that “art has no priority at all”, but I agree that the other things you list are all higher priorities. I value arts for a lot of reasons, and I make it a priority. When my childhood family moved to a *really* rural area, my mom drove my sisters and me to the nearest town with a dance teacher every week. 45 minutes from school to dance classes, then a cheap fast-food meal, and 45 minutes home. We did our homework in the car, and went straight to bed as soon as we got home.

    My kids are getting private music lessons when they aren’t in public school music programs (Montera’s Beginning Strings class is saving us from having to find a new teacher for younger son). But a lot of families don’t have the income to make the same choices, and I will continue to hope that arts education can *somehow* not be lost to those families.

  • Nextset

    Sue – I agree that art should remain part of a childs experience and exposure. I expect that PTA groups and parents will cobble together something on a volunteer basis. A possible problem with that is the security & screening legislation and policies that keep the schools from casually using volunteers.

    Most likely we will see some people setting up extracurricular programs – like boy scouts, religious clubs, etc – for their kids to go to after school and on weekends. Believe me, some people will take care of themselves and see that their kids do get whatever is needed to be competitive and well rounded.

    The urban school districts will have to go into survival mode and I just hope they keep the bathrooms cleaned and the classrooms heated.

    We have not yet really seen the effect of this years economic failures. Give it 12 months.

    Family, Church, Cult, Fraternities and Clan are going to be far more important in a year than they are now. The municialities are going to be in a real crisis. More things will have to be provided by Ad Hoc providers instead of Government.

    And I’ll believe they (municipalities) are taking it seriously when statewide all the mayors and city councilmen (and school boards) are stripped of their pay entirely and municipal governance goes to all volunteer positions – as it should be. All “town fathers” and the like and no “community activists”.