The Center for Arts Education Holds 1st Governmental Affairs Meeting
The Center for Arts Education (CAE) released preliminary statistics indicating the noncompliance of New York City schools with state arts education standards at its first Government Affairs Breakfast recently.
Addressing government officials, education policymakers and leaders from major New York cultural organizations, speakers from the CAE and other organizations that support the arts used these statistics to increase public awareness of the importance of arts education in public schools.
CAE Executive Director Richard Kessler presented statistics suggesting that children were not receiving the arts education to which they were entitled. Using the New York City Department of Education’s (NYCDOE) 2006 Project Arts Survey, Kessler revealed the findings of one theater teacher for every 7,000 students, one dance teacher for every 6,000 students, one music teacher for every 1,100 students, and one visual arts teacher for every 800 students. According to the NYCDOE study, said Kessler, in New York City, $285 million is spent on arts education, only 1.7% of total educational spending.
CAE chairperson Laurie Tisch emphasized the importance of arts education and its correlation to success in public schools. She alluded to a 1999 Carnegie Foundation study that indicated that arts education increases the likelihood of academic achievement, class office leadership, participation in math and science fairs, and attendance awards.
Dr. Allison Bernstein, vice president for Ford Foundation’s Knowledge, Creativity and Freedom Program, indicated another reason for the need for arts education—competence in basic reading and literacy, skills emphasized on exams required of each New York City public school. However, she said, “Testing is not a reform strategy. You cannot test your way to success. Reading alone doesn’t create the engaged citizen we need…Being able to express oneself analytically and creatively is as important as being able to read.” Although Kessler emphasized that the newly released data was preliminary, he indicated it still demonstrated a need for more arts education funding. “The data tells you how much further we still need to go,” he said.
Terry Baker, former evaluator for the CAE, observed that, like the numbers, the campaign to increase funding was at its preliminary stages. “This is 20 years into the effort, and we shouldn’t being doing the first stage now,” he commented. In the past, according to Baker, there was an inability to do studies like the ones presented by the CAE because of New York City’s tendency to push arts education aside. “What happens is that arts education tends to be a victim of other larger issues. The issues may be a school reform, budget, or new tests and exams. Arts education tends to be important, but not as important,” he said.
Liz Krueger, New York State senator, agreed that public schools often do not view arts education as a priority. “I fear that when schools are trying to prioritize what they need most, they will prioritize not to have arts education,” she said.
For that reason, Tisch said that community members of New York City must work together to bring back arts education to public schools. “It not only takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a whole city to restore arts education,” she said.#
Founded in 1996, the CAE funds partnerships between public schools and arts and community organizations to develop and sustain comprehensive arts education programs in New York City’s public schools.