Founded in 1996, Arts for Oakland Kids (AOK) is a 501(c)(3) arts justice fund. AOK raises funds to provide grants to arts organizations, independent teaching artists, and classroom teachers for hands-on arts education in Oakland’s most financially oppressed public schools.
During the budget crisis in the 1990s, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) cut all arts funding from its schools. That action created a two-tiered public education in Oakland and educational barriers for the majority of Oakland's students of color.
Numerous national studies show that consistent participation in the arts is key to successful educational outcomes. Students with consistent participation in the arts are 5 times more likely to graduate and 3.5 times more likely to earn a bachelor's degree. Consistent participation in the arts has such a powerful impact on social, emotional, and intellectual development that it significantly narrows or eliminates the academic achievement gap. While arts participation is important for all students, the outcomes are especially powerful for students from marginalized or oppressed communities.
White students are only 10% of the OUSD population but are now 60% of the population that receives consistent, in-school arts participation. White families utilize their disproportionate access to generational wealth to fund as much as $800,000+ per year for arts education through their PTAs.
Roughly 40,000 OUSD students per year—98% of whom are students of color—attend schools without any PTAs, or PTAs that are only able to raise $3,000 or less per year. These students receive little or no consistent arts participation.
For over 25 years, Arts for Oakland Kids has worked to remedy this injustice by funding grants for arts education in Oakland’s most financially oppressed public schools.