Funding for arts education in public schools has been decreasing for years and with the current economic downturn things have gone from bad to worse nationwide.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is one of five school districts in Los Angeles County that has been invited to participate in a pilot program through Arts For All and their partner Arts for LA to help community members increase their capacity to advocate for arts education plans in the District. The program is being funded through a grant from the Wallis Foundation.
Three initiatives are part of the program according to a blog written by Arts for La Advocacy Manager Tara Stafford. The Leadership Fellow Program will bring each district’s leaders together to in order to increase their understanding of quality, access, and equity in arts education and to share their best practices. The districts will also work with the Griffin Center for Inspired Instruction to design and test a system for collecting data to address the gaps in knowledge about arts education. This data will then be presented to arts stakeholders and key decision makers. Lastly, community advocates will be developed to advocate and “monitor the implementation of long-range plans and programs for arts education in school districts.”
Two meetings have been held so far with the SMMUSD stakeholders. The first meeting provided an orientation as well as an introduction to advocacy. The second meeting, focused on developing and planning an arts advocacy campaign. At the second meeting the stakeholders identified a number of challenges facing the District’s arts education program: funding, inequitable access, protecting state funding for the arts, changing the mindset that the arts are dispensable, and the demands on classroom time of teaching the state education standards which leaves less time for the study of the arts.
Some suggested solutions included tapping into the community to help with funding, reframing the value of arts to the overall education of a student, and placing credentialed artist educators in the district’s classrooms.
The other four school districts that will be participating in the pilot program are the Burbank Unified School District, the Culver City School District, the Montebello Unified School District and the Paramount Unified School District. One school district was chosen from each of the five County Supervisor districts.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted the Art for All: Los Angeles County Regional Blueprint for Arts Education in 2002. The goal is to restore arts education for all students in music, theatre, dance and the visual arts. SMMUSD was one of the original 11 districts to join the initiative. Now, there are 38 County school districts, representing 510,000 students involved with the initiative.