SFUSD school board proposes banning ticket sales for school performances

“It was my first time actually singing in front of people and I knew I had found my family,” sophomore Emma Greene said. “They welcomed me with open arms. It was the first time in high school and for the first time in my whole life, really, where I had finally found where I belonged.” Photo by Christina Johnson

O n Jan. 23, many Lowell students went to a San Francisco Unified School District school board hearing to speak against Proposal 6145: Extracurricular and Co-curricular Activities. An amendment made to the original proposal would ban ticket sales for student performances, excluding sporting events.

The goal of the school board’s proposal is to make sure “all students have equitable access to educational extracurricular and cocurricular activities,” according to the school board. The Lowell emailed the board for a comment regarding the reason behind excluding sporting events from the proposal, but they declined to comment.

“The public school system provides really great opportunities for lower income families that can’t afford to pursue their passions in other ways and I think it is inequitable to take these programs away from students like myself,” junior Bel Mehaffy said. Photo by Christina Johnson

Although non-extracurricular arts programs receive extra support from the Public Education Enrichment Fund, that funding does not cover plays and musicals because they are extracurricular activities, Jones said. “Without this funding, these [extracurricular] programs will no longer exist, [and] without these programs, many students including myself could not afford to take theater or dance anywhere else,” junior dancer and advanced theater student Bel Mehaffy said to the board.

Students and staff found out about Proposal 6145 on the morning of the school board meeting, when SOTA’s principal Barnaby Payne contacted principal Andrew Ishibashi, according to drama teacher Anne Marie Ullman. Ishibashi informed Ullman about the proposal and the board meeting, and she then told other Lowell arts teachers and her own students. Ullman and Jones encouraged their students to attend the meeting that night, and had their advanced classes write speeches during class time.

“I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the drama program does just as much for kids in building identities and building character and having that outlet as sports do,” senior Jacob Weiss said. Photo by Christina Johnson

Later, during the board meeting, students were allotted 25 minutes of speaking time for Proposal 6145. Within that span of time, students stood up to share how school performing arts programs had shaped their lives, fostered invaluable social skills, created tight-knit communities, helped them cope with loss and gave them an opportunity to perform when they couldn’t otherwise have afforded it. “I think it is inequitable to take these programs away from students like myself,” Mehaffy said.

“When you get down to it, [ticket sales are] a fundraiser for these amazing programs we have to continue to inspire people to go into the arts and to really find their way in life,” junior Joshua Kay said. Photos by Christina Johnson

While the school board claims that the proposed idea of not charging for tickets is equitable, lower-income students would lose the opportunity to participate in arts programs, according to Ullman. “The students who can afford to will go to outside organizations that charge for the arts, and students who can’t will be left with nothing,” Ullman said. “We would be 100 percent behind [the proposal] if [the school board] would agree to fund our programming so that we don’t have to charge tickets.”

Ultimately, a decision on the proposal was postponed until the next SFUSD school board meeting. Between now and then, the school board will perform a fiscal analysis on the impact of Proposal 6145.

The meeting is on Tuesday Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. at 555 Franklin St.