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.
Parent and certified art teacher