Art Programs In Jeopardy

Poverty-stricken, inner city kids have few creative outlets. School art programs are one of the places where they can be exposed to art and often the experience can be life-altering.

But increasingly funding for arts programs is the first thing to go amid budget cuts. To bring attention to this issue last year the NYC Comptroller’s office released, “State of the Arts: A Plan To Boost Arts Education In NYC Schools,” which analyzed NYC school art programs.

What the report found were vast inequities in arts education citywide, with low-income schools disproportionately under-funded. Against the backdrop of a 47% overall decline in spending on arts and cultural vendors in NYC schools, schools in low-income neighborhoods like the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn felt the impact heavily.

From the report:

  • More than 42 percent of schools that lack either full-time or part-time certified arts teachers are located in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn;
  • Nearly half of the schools that lack both a certified arts teacher and a partnership with an arts or cultural organization are located in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn; and
  • Thirty-four percent of all City schools that do not have dedicated arts rooms are located in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn.

The mayor subsequently pledged $23 million to arts education in middle and high schools across NYC.

But NYC’s disparities with arts funding are not unique. In California where arts education is mandated at every grade level, an analysis by the L.A. Times found many schools in non-compliance:

  • Eight out of every 10 elementary schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District don’t have the programs needed to meet state requirements

The problem of mandated arts programs not being properly implemented is one tackled by organizations like the Arts Education Partnership. In their 2015 State of The States Arts Education Policy Summary, they analyze art education policies state by state. Yet they also make the caveat that “the measure of a state’s commitment to arts education should not be based solely on the number of mandates it has in place.”

They also note that there is a real “policy paradox” affecting schools in the U.S. where “strong policies for arts education at the state level are correlated with weak implementation of those at the local level.” This is more often a case of lack of necessary data available to states to hold local school districts accountable.