The need for investment in arts, science, and heritage education is real.

In the last decade, funding for the Washington State Arts Commission, which provides access to and participation in arts and cultural opportunities throughout the state, has been cut in half. Unfortunately, these cuts have a disproportionately negative impact on already-disadvantaged communities — low-income schools, communities of color and people with disabilities.

But the solution to the state funding problem is local — with greater cultural access funding, we can invest in local and regional organizations that are best equipped to work with local schools and community groups. Among other benefits, increased cultural access funding would pay for student transportation and admission costs, allow institutions to bring arts, science, and heritage experiences into low-income schools, provide free or reduced ticket programs, as well as bolster the programming arts, science, and heritage organizations are able to provide. Additionally, as audiences and memberships become more diverse, so too do staffs and boards of directors.

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May 01 2017

​In August, King County voters will have the chance to boost funding for arts, science and heritage education and access.Today the King County Council voted 7-2 to place Access for All on the August 2017 ballot.

"I'm incredibly grateful the county council is sending this important issue to voters," said Manuel Cawaling, executive director of Youth Theatre Northwest on Mercer Island. "One of the things our theatre does is partner with school districts in east King County that don't have drama programs to provide their students with hands-on theatre education. We actually produce plays with these students -- and for many of them it's their only exposure to arts. Access for All will allow us to expand programs like this, because your zip code shouldn't determine whether you have access to arts education."

Access for All would provide funding for more than 350 arts, science and heritage organizations throughout the county to expand education for public school students and increase access to diverse experiences for low-income and middle-class families. Smaller, community-based organizations that serve traditionally under-served communities would be eligible for twice as much funding.

"Tomorrow's scientists, engineers and inventors are in today's classrooms, but the reality is their potential is all-too-often limited by their zip code," said Doug King, president and CEO for the Museum of Flight, one of 35 major regional institutions that would receive funding. "Access for All will allow us to expand programs for students of all age levels on-site and in classrooms throughout the county, as well as launch new initiatives to bring our education to more students who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity."

Half of all the funding that regional organizations like the Museum of Flight would receive is earmarked for expanding public school education and expanding equity in audiences and communities served.

"After months of working with our sponsors on the King County council and other councilmembers, we've reached an equitable proposal that ensures funds will reach communities throughout the county that need it most," said James Kraft, executive director for Cultural Access Washington, the group that has worked on Access for All for more than a decade. "On behalf of more than 350 arts, science and heritage organization throughout King County: thank you to the county council for giving voters the chance to decide."

If approved by voters on August 1, 2017, Access for All would raise the county sales tax by 0.1 percent -- just one penny for every $10 spent, or $30 a year for the average King County family.

"We're looking forward to the next few months of communicating with voters the importance of arts, science and heritage education for all King County students," said Jack Sorensen, campaign manager for Access for All. "We're confident that voters will support this well-crafted proposal to ensure that every student and family has the same access to diverse educational experiences."

March 30 2017

Originally published in the Kent Reporter.

The Woodland Park Zoo just completed a five-month-long partnership with Kent Elementary School to provide students with hands-on science education, teaching students about conservation and local wildlife.

The program – called Ready, Set, Discover – could be expanded to more schools through Access for All, a proposed ballot measure to increase funding for arts, science and heritage education for public school students, program officials said.

If approved by the King County Council, voters would get a chance to decide on this August's ballot, program officials said.

Through the Ready, Set, Discover program with Kent Elementary and 13 other elementary schools in the district (nearly 1,100 students total), zoo naturalists spent time with students during field trips to Woodland Park Zoo and outdoor exploration trips to local wetlands researching amphibians and their habitats.

At the end of the program, students give a presentation on a solution for improving habitats for amphibians and are asked to explain how all of the program experiences contributed to their research. Program officials say it's a valuable learning experience for students and teaches kids important research, science and presentation skills beyond just wildlife conservation.

You can read the full story in the Kent Reporter.

March 21 2017

Today a group of science and history education organizations gathered at the Seattle Aquarium to urge the King County Council's support for Access for All, a ballot initiative proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine that would provide increased funding for arts, science and heritage education for King County students.

The proposal, now before the King County Council, includes significant funding for student transportation and in-class education opportunities in all 19 King County school districts, many of which have seen cuts to cultural learning opportunities. With new resources, institutions throughout the county – like the Seattle Aquarium, the Holocaust Center for Humanity or SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve – would be able to partner with local school districts to ensure all students are able to experience hands-on science education and have access to the region's many museums, historical and cultural institutions.

"Funding Access for All raises our entire community," said Bob Davidson, president and CEO of the Seattle Aquarium, who hosted Tuesday's event. "It's urgent that we not leave anyone behind."

Tuesday's event proceeds the proposal's first public hearing in front of the King County Council on Wednesday. If approved by the council, voters will have a chance to approve Access for All on the August ballot.

"The Holocaust isn't a required subject unit in Washington schools," said Ilana Cone Kennedy, director of education for the Holocaust Center for Humanity, which partners with local school districts to provide on-site and in-class Holocaust education, including presentations from survivors. "Learning about this important event, and the lessons it can teach us today, is up to nonprofit support. We provide transportation funding and teacher training where we can, but there are still too many kids who never learn about the Holocaust in school. With more funding from Access for All, we could provide more education on this important subject for more public school students."

Access for All would use a sales tax raise of 0.1 percent — just one penny for every $10 spent — to provide funding for the Holocaust Center for Humanity and almost 400 other regional and community-based institutions throughout King County, and enhance both school visits to the institutions and in-class programs from arts, science and heritage organizations themselves.

"Having worked in South King County for over 20 years, I am concerned about inequities in access to arts and cultural programs," said Alan Spicciati, superintendent for the Auburn School District. "Access for All is a unique opportunity to target resources directly to make a difference in arts and cultural education. In the Auburn School District, we would be able to use Access for All funds to take students to arts, science and heritage institution, bring programs into our schools, and train teachers to integrate arts and culture into classroom instruction."

"We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to explore the natural world and learn about conservation," said Emily Carlson, education and restoration manager for the SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve, a nonprofit that stewards over 100 acres of land in Southeast King County. "Though we already greatly subsidize the cost of environmental science opportunities for public school groups, funding is still a major barrier for many students. Access for All will mean that more students will have the opportunity to explore their surroundings, feed their curiosity, and learn about the rich history of the Puget Sound Region."