How SF Arts Advocates Leveraged Support for Ballot Measure

How SF Arts Advocates Leveraged Support for Ballot Measure

Challenge: Persuade city officials to introduce and support a ballot initiative to fund arts education, libraries and sports.  

Strategy: The San Francisco Alliance for Arts Education authored a white paper that decision-makers clear, sound arguments for amending a funding policy and putting it on the November 2014 ballot.


San Francisco’s PEEF (Public Education Enrichment Fund), which for years had protected funding for physical education, libraries and arts education in San Francisco public schools seemed to be on the back burner, despite the fact that it was set to sunset at the end of the year. With careful planning, research and plenty of lead time, the San Francisco Alliance for Arts Education (SFAAE) succeeded in getting a ballot measure passed reauthorizing PEEF and securing funding for programs that historically have been vulnerable to budget reduction or elimination in difficult economic times.

1. Gather Input

To get started, SFAAE advocates reached out to SF school board members, members of the San Francisco City Board of Supervisors and advocates for physical education, libraries and youth development to brainstorm, and started conversations with leaders from the arts community, gathering input from each.

“We had a lot of lead time, which allowed us to have conversations, gather input and formulate recommendations that could garner support from a diverse group of allies” says Michelle Holdt, the founding member of SFAAE ““We made sure that it was clear in those meetings that our agenda was not simply the arts but for quality education.”

Months of meetings helped arts education advocates identify which aspects of the measure would be hard for elected officials to back and to craft recommendations that would garner the broadest possible support.

2. Put it in Writing

Based on their research and community conversations, SFAAE advocates put together a 10-page policy paper that outlined the details of the measure as well as concrete recommendations.

“We thought we could help policymakers support the initiative if we offered clear written information about why the measure was important,” says Mark Hauber, the local leader for the group. “I think they appreciated that we had done our homework and given them something specific to respond to.”

3. Recruit Key Allies

The group sent the paper to key allies and asked for meetings to discuss it in detail. By sending the paper out, they provided leaders with a clear policy ask to respond to.  

By starting early, the group published a position before people were even thinking about this issue.

After several meetings, word began to spread and advocates heard that their white paper had made it into the hands of the Mayor and the SFUSD Superintendent and was read at city-wide leadership meetings.

Ultimately, the group succeeded in getting a measure on the November ballot, and influenced the language that got placed on the ballot, including eliminating a provision that limited funds in tough financial times and a revised timeframe that extends the measure for another 26 years.

Read the Policy Paper

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