What if every school had a full-time arts teacher?

Gabriela Lopez integrates art in her classroom as a way to get to know her students and build community.

(Not quite) every student, every school, every day…

In 2006, our district announced a bold vision in its SFUSD Arts and Education Master Plan to offer students visual and performing arts instruction to “every student, in every school, every day.”

This painting was modeled after a painting by Tyrus Wong a famous Chinese American watercolor artist and illustrator widely known for Bambi.

One good example

For example, only 64% of SFUSD schools participated in the annual SFUSD Arts Festival in 2019 (keep in mind, school participation is counted even if ONLY ONE student’s art is chosen from that school).

The students who need it the most aren’t getting access.

So, while our district may say our schools are providing arts instruction to all students, in reality it is not.

One daughter did a portrait of her sister. When I look at it, it reminds me how much our kids depend on us to fight for them in our schools.

Equity can’t wait.

We must take action now to ensure our most underserved students get access to a high quality performing and visual arts education.

Arts Education is a right not a privilege!

First, we must become an Arts Equity District by adopting The Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning.

A new model for arts education

Second, based on our experience as classroom teachers, art educators and community organizers, we propose a new model of arts education in SFUSD!

One of my favorite activities that never gets old! Inspired by my work at @innercityarts. Helping students build connections doing abstract art using lines and shapes as a guide
  • Adopt a Declaration of Rights for All Students to Access and Equity in Instruction in the Arts — All students deserve access to high quality, culturally relevant arts instruction!
  • Provide a centrally funded full-time VAPA arts educator at every K-5 site to provide a range of arts experiences;
  • Direct central office staff to work with UESF in designing a new PK-5 VAPA job description that empowers, recognizes and supports VAPA teachers as professional experts who serve in the following roles at their school sites: 1) arts integration specialists; 2) liaisons for community-based arts organizations; 3) coordinators for cultural arts celebrations;
  • Create Professional Learning Networks for VAPA classroom teachers and provide the necessary substitute days and compensation for them to collaborate with central office administrators and community arts experts in building out a K-12 scope and sequence for all major visual and performing arts disciplines;
  • Design opportunities for VAPA teachers, school communities, and especially families and students, to design arts pathways at all divisions (elementary — middle — high); which are geographically accessible and located across the city;

The Outcomes

This resolution would:

  • Improve support and accountability for arts implementation and integration. Site principals can more effectively evaluate and support site-based teachers, just as they manage other site staff, and the savings can be used to provide immediate and direct benefits to students and schools.
  • Create a more equitable structure for decision-making around arts education and include more voices; specifically families of the most underserved students (students learning English, students with disabilities; etc.) and the people closest to the work: VAPA teachers;
  • Allow more schools to celebrate student cultures and histories, support teachers in integrating fun and student-centered arts-integrated learning, and nurture the creativity of both students and educators in all our classrooms.
  • Maintain the current 4/5 grade instrumental music program and generalist VAPA program in fall of 2019 while planning occurs. We propose teachers could (and should) help with planning over the next year to provide recommendations or changes to make the K-5 arts and instrumental programs more accessible and equitable the following year;
  • Redirect the $1.4 million in administrative salaries in addition to other PEEF dollars currently used to fund centrally-focused projects to provide increased staffing at schools and instruments and arts supplies for students. Based on SFUSD’s own reports, the district is currently funding several centrally-focused arts initiatives that are underserving students who are learning English, receiving special education services, Black, Latinx and low-income.

Read more about this topic on Alison Collins’ blog:



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Alison M Collins

Alison M Collins

mom of twins. education nerd. public school warrior. reformed cat-lady. amateur urbanist. social justice addict. BLERD. & most recently Board of Ed Commissioner