Monday, June 18, 2012

My Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama:

Our school district has nearly eliminated all art, music, physical education, library, and recess at our elementary schools, while boasting in the media about reading and math test scores, and improved behavior at our center city schools. The majority of students attending our schools are growing up in poverty. Because of the recent "good news", very few people are complaining or even noticing that poor children are being unfairly denied experiences in the arts. Our teachers have agreed to work a longer day to provide reading and math tutoring, in order to boost test scores. This makes it even harder for me, an art teacher and parent who knows the academic value of the arts, to make my case for restoring the arts to our schools.

 Our district always finds money for after school tutoring in reading and math, but if we want an art club, or artist in residency, our PTA must pay. I know that my active and creative child is bored at school, even hates school, and needs the "special classes" where he is allowed to explore his ideas and be creative. He has trouble sitting for 90 minutes of math. I am concerned that such long class periods are developmentally inappropriate for young children. Other parents tell me that their children now hate school. Parents are fed up with the majority of instructional time at school being spent on reading and math testing and test prep. Currently, there are no plans to restore our arts programs. I know you understand the importance of the arts, since you released the landmark government study "Reinvesting in Arts Education." And I applaud the First Lady for focusing on exercise and eating healthy through her "Let's Move" and organic gardening campaigns. But how can poor children fight obesity if they are denied physical education class and recess at school?

All children deserve a well rounded public education, but districts that serve poor children are slashing important programs because of budget cuts and testing mandates. These school districts have been disproportionately hit by these funding cuts, and children attending these schools are denied equal opportunities to discover their talents. The arts are essential to the school curriculum, just like they are essential to being human. The arts should not be reserved only for wealthy children. Narrowing of curriculum due to testing and budget cuts has hurt our most vulnerable students. Please make sure that our neighborhood public schools are fully funded to meet the needs of all students, so all students can succeed. Learning should not be a race with winners and losers.


Angie Villa
Parent and certified art teacher
Allentown, PA


Mrs. Dottie said...

Might as well go right to the top. No one's listening around here. Local leadership not putting kids first. Governor Corbett wants to destroy public education. Local artists, patrons, arts groups, advocates, city council, school board, business leaders, mayor are all silent on this topic.

Mrs. Dottie said...

"In a March 2012 study, "The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth," the NEA found that 71 percent of low-income students with a high exposure to the arts attended college, compared with only 48 percent who had a low arts exposure. They also found that students highly exposed to the arts had better grades and test scores in all subjects." Thanks to my Facebook friend Donna Yates Mace for this info.

Anonymous said...

While I appreciate your efforts and share your sentiment, I fear that our president has not done very much to help public education in this country.

While I will most certainly vote for him in November, he has largely used education as his olive branch to Republicans during his first term in office....very disappointing.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Anon, I am disappointed in Obama's education policy too. Not the hope and change I had expected. I think he should dump Arne Duncan, and appoint someone who has actually been a teacher. I hate the idea of "Race to the Top" as a competition for funding with punitive and unrealistic accountability measures. It's so wrong. But I think we have a responsibility to express our disappointment and hope he listens to the education experts, instead of the monied and powerful corporate forces. We have to stop the privatization of public schools, which is happening right now in Philadelphia, Reading, and other big cities across the country. Public education should not be for private profit, it's a public good.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Allentown School board director Joanne Jackson said she did not vote for current budget because she wants specials restored to our schools! Thank you Joanne!