City to award $23 million to improve arts education
by Jess Berry
Jul 11, 2014 | 7980 views | 0 0 comments | 207 207 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For those worried about the future of creativity for students in schools that are focusing more and more on standardized testing and investing less time in cultivating imaginative thinking, there is some good news.

In an attempt to fight the persistent decline of the arts, the city will spend an additional $23 million on arts in schools this year.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Chancellor Carmen Farina announced last week that much of the funding will be spent on training and hiring teachers, arts facilities improvements and arts materials.

“Mayor de Blasio’s commitment of $23 million for expanded arts education marks an important down payment in our ongoing effort to make sure that every city student, in every neighborhood, has access to a meaningful arts education,” Stringer said.

In his recent “State of the Arts” report, Stringer cited a study from the Department of Education (DOE) showing that over the past seven years, there has been a 47 percent cut in spending on cultural vendors and arts and an additional 84 percent decline in spending on arts supplies and equipment.

This decline has most adversely affected neighborhoods in South Bronx and Central Brooklyn.

Stringer writes in his report that, while these neighborhoods are home to just 31 percent of city schools, more than 42 percent of the city’s schools that lack either full-time or part-time certified arts teacher are located in the South Bronx or Central Brooklyn.

Additionally, 34 percent of all city schools that do not have dedicated arts rooms are located in these two neighborhoods.

In total, 419 schools citywide, or 28 percent, lack a full-time certified arts teacher. New York State law requires that students in grades 7-12 be taught by a certified arts teacher, but 22 percent of all middle schools and 20 percent of all high schools are not compliant.

Of those 419 schools, 306 have neither a full-time nor a part-time certified arts teacher.

Outside of staffing, facilities are also a problem. Ten percent of schools have no dedicated arts room, Stringer reports.

In order to address these issues, the city has allocated $5 million to hire a total of 120 certified arts teachers.

A large portion of that money will go towards offsetting personnel costs to hire 100 certified arts teachers, who will work in 50 pairs of middle schools. The rest of that funding will allow 20 new teachers to enter a fully subsidized two-year certification program through Lincoln Center and Hunter College.

Another $7.5 million will be invested in upgrading and enhancing arts facilities across the city. The improvements will include new lighting in auditoriums, installing or upgrading dance floors and choral risers, school libraries and instrument repair and distribution.

In addition to these larger investments, money will be spent on tools for full-time arts teachers, professional development, expanded student programs, expanded partnerships with arts organizations and borough-based arts teams that will coordinate with school leadership to boost arts programs.

“We want every child to feel the spark that comes from learning something they are passionate about. And so often, it’s taking up an instrument, honing an artistic craft, or performing for the first time that helps a young person come into their own for the first time,” de Blasio said. “The investments we are making here won’t just help our students explore music, dance and the arts. They will help these children grow in a way that helps them succeed in school and in life.”

Local organizations outside of schools will also see the benefits of the funding. Ellen Kodadek, executive and artistic director of Flushing Town Hall — which provides arts education for nearly 10,000 students every year — expressed her own gratitude for the increased funds.

“It's been proven time and again that kids who have early exposure to arts education excel in other subjects,” Kodadek said. “We're thrilled to know that the programming we provide in schools and at Flushing Town Hall will continue to be supported in the coming fiscal year."

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