We are unaccustomed to victories in arts education, particularly at this time of economic uncertainty, and particularly at this time of the year. It’s spring: pinkslip time for many teachers in California. Advocates in local school districts are fighting fiercely to provide all children with a high-quality education that includes the arts.
In this difficult climate, we fought to preserve federal funding for the Art in Education (AIE) program at the US Department of Education. And we won. On April 15, Congress and the president approved the FY 2011 appropriations bill which included restoration of the federal Arts In Education program – the only education program to be restored from being cut or terminated earlier in the year.
Performing Arts Workshop and 56 other grantees of this nationally competitive grant program advocated in letters, in person, and on the phone to preserve federal funding for critical research and evaluation focused on the arts in education. At our “The Light Shines On” celebration on April 5, friends and colleagues of Performing Arts Workshop sent 152 postcards in support of the AIE program to seven key legislators.
Our message was clear: The arts are a critical part of a high-quality education. All children deserve a high-quality education. The Art in Education program supports research about the powerful impact that the arts can have on student achievement. If we want to prepare students for success in work and life in the 21st century, then we need to provide them with the high-quality education that they need and deserve. The Art in Education program is a key part of this goal.
The fight isn’t over yet. Soon, both houses of congress will begin negotiating the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2012. In addition, the chairmen of the House and Senate education committees in Congress have promised action soon on the reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind).
And at the same time, I can’t help feeling cheerful. The recent grassroots mobilization of our field has prepared us well for the fights to come. I am so grateful to those of you became advocates for arts education in your communities. I believe that we are ready to defend each child’s right to a creative education.