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Grim Picture for Arts Education in NYC

June 9, 2011
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Carlton Curry, of CEJ talks about how 26 of the 70 schools in District 9 don't have arts teachers

Today, the Center for Arts Education (CAE), the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ), the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), United Federation of Teachers (UFT), elected officials, parents and other education advocates denounced proposed funding cuts in the arts in schools. CEJ and AQE called on Mayor Bloomberg to recognize the arts crisis in our schools and enact sensible solutions to fix the City’s budget — such as ending tax breaks for the wealthiest New Yorkers and the biggest banks.

A new report released by CAE found:

  • Funds to hire arts and cultural organizations to provide arts education services directly to students declined by $1.1 million, or 8 percent, since the previous year, and by $7.8 million, or 36 percent, since SY 2006–07.
  • Funds for arts supplies, musical instruments, and equipment declined by $1.2 million, or 34 percent from the previous year, and by $8.4 million, almost 80 percent, since SY 2006–07.
  • Funds for school-based arts teachers fell by $11.6 million, or 4 percent, from the previous year; this budget line has increased slightly (less than 1 percent) over the 2006–07 school year (SY).
  • New York City public schools lost 135 arts teachers — a decline of 5 percent
  • Approximately 23 percent of all New York City public schools had no full-time or part-time licensed arts teacher on staff.

The report recommends:

  • The Mayor and the Department of Education should take the necessary steps to ensure that the city’s public school students do not bear the brunt of budget cuts. Central to this, is ensuring that teaching positions are not eliminated next year. The administration should ensure that at a minimum every public school across the city has at least one certified arts teacher on staff.
  • The DOE should once again hold principals accountable for spending dollars targeted for arts education on arts education.
  • The Department of Education and the State Education Department should put in place a mechanism to ensure that all schools are held accountable for providing the arts instructional requirements that are outlined in state education law.

“School budgeting for key elements of arts education has shrunk dramatically over the last three school years.  The threat of even more severe cuts this year presents an existential crisis for our hopes for a robust arts education for every child in every school,” said Doug Israel, Director of Research and Policy at the Center for Arts Education.  “In addition to declines in funding for personnel and cultural partnerships, we found that the DoE is now budgeting, on average, two dollars on arts supplies and equipment per student per year — down 79% from three years prior. This is simply unacceptable and an injustice to our youth who deserve better.”

Doug Israel, from the Center for Arts Education talks about their report

The threat of teacher layoffs for the upcoming school year — on top of funding cuts in previous years — greatly concerns public school advocates and parents.  “Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to cut 6,000 teachers, many of which will be art, music, theater and dance teachers, does not have to happen. As a former band member, having mastered three instruments, the sense of accomplishment and confidence were comparable to none. How many of our children will lose out on the benefits of quality art and music programs as a result of the Mayor’s cuts? Mayor Bloomberg, there are alternative ways of balancing the budget, including closing Wall Street loopholes and extending the Millionaires’ Tax. There are no excuses for devastating cuts to arts and music,” said Zakiyah Ansari, a parent organizer with AQE.

Parents testified to the real impact of DoE funding decisions. “As a result of budget cuts, our school doesn’t have a real art or music program- my child, and all the students at PS 260 in Brooklyn are paying the price and the cost is their future. It is common sense that a well-rounded education with funding for arts and music leads to students staying in school and going to college. It’s absolutely unacceptable that Mayor Bloomberg now wants to take more from our classrooms and our students” said Evelyn Torres, parent from PS 260 in Brooklyn and CEJ parent leader.

At the press conference, students played a silent concert with paper instruments to symbolize the lack of access to arts and music education in their schools

Councilmembers Ydanis Rodriguez, Jimmy Van Bramer & Gail Brewer

Councilmember Brad Lander

Portia Armstrong, Master of Ceremonies & CEJ leader

Councilmember Robert Jackson plays a sad song about Arts education funding

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