(Selection from a Grant Proposal)
There has been a steady decline of arts education in public schools. One result of the No Child Left Behind Act was a penalty system that focused on performance in Math and Reading, with no requirement for Arts standards, even though the language of the law lists it as a core subject. Under this law, schools that have poor performance in Math and Reading lose funding to pay teachers’ salaries. The natural results of this are budgetary priorities aligned to subjects that now affect a school’s future; if a school has challenges meeting math or reading requirements, it must devote a greater share of its budget to meeting them, at the expense of all other subjects. The result is a narrower scope of education for low and middle income communities.
Our city in particular faces challenges under this system, challenges that lead directly to a decline in arts education. In one respect, the level of a parents’ educational attainment is related to children’s academic achievement. For schools that serve low and middle income homes, where children are less likely to have college educated parents, meeting performance requirements to avoid budget penalties translates to a focus on subjects that affect school survival, meaning lower income neighborhoods receive less arts education than higher income populations. (“The Influence of Parent Education and Family Income on Child Achievement,” Pamela E. Davis-Kean, Univ. of Michigan, 2005) The National Endowment for the Arts identified both the decline and its impact in the homes of parents without college education, using 2008 Census Bureau data. They found among children of a college graduate, 27% had never taken a single art class, compared with 12% in 1982. For children of high school graduates, the number who’d never had arts courses rose from 30% nearly 30 years ago to 66% in 2008. (“Arts education in spotlight,” Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times, 2011) The decline increases further as schools serving diverse communities, such as the significant Hispanic population in our immediate area, are under even greater pressure to meet performance with middle school students one half to one third less proficient in reading. (“Patterns of Hispanic Students’ Math and English Literacy Test Scores in the Early Elementary Grades,” Sean F. Reardon – Stanford University & Claudia Galindo – John Hopkins University, 2006) Overall this means Los Angeles schools within ethnically diverse, low and middle income communities are doubly penalized when it comes to arts curriculum.
LAUSD is bracing for a significant decrease in Arts education, primarily for elementary school students who will lose nearly 60% of their arts instructors, dropping from 210 to 91. Secondary schools will experience a 26% drop in their staffing. What the current educational environment faces is a standard evaluation method producing statistics that portray national progress and therefore no urgent need to sustain schools, leading to a justification of budget cuts for education. Because these cuts are by law weighted towards schools that do not meet its performance standards, these cuts will only occur where incomes are low, parents are less educated, and populations are from diverse ethnic backgrounds. This sets the students of Los Angeles as the primary losers in educational funding. In order to secure the health and strength of our community, we must seek private and institutional support to provide comparable opportunities for arts education to our own city’s children as those which are available in other regions.
We believe that the results of this shift in education standards are apparent through changes in our cultural values, where we find public alienation from understanding the value of contemporary art, a lack of empathy and concern for one another, and a disconnection of youth from civic and community involvement, instead producing attitudes that reflect a singular concern for prestige. All of these deficits can be traced to a decline in arts education for children and youth. This workshop is part of our commitment to providing a vital form of education, in this case significantly and comprehensively supplementing public education with a disappearing subject. It is our core belief that creativity and the role of contemporary art is necessary and restorative for peaceful, healthy communities.
LA Artcore, with two central Los Angeles locations in Lincoln Heights and the downtown (Little Tokyo) area, is in the midst of a significant portion of the low and moderate-income population in the city. As outlined above, the schools in our area, due to the income levels and diversity of the communities they serve, are less likely to have state and federal support for an arts curriculum. It is our goal to offer these workshops as a supplemental educational service to the community. We are presently conducting outreach, with an initial approach to 12 local elementary schools, as well as charter schools and small arts organizations that require assistance with arts education.