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Report: Art Education Programs on the Decline
posted by: Alix | April 03, 2012, 09:41 PM   

There isn't a school district in the country that hasn't been affected by the recession and difficult budget decisions. For years, national media coverage has highlighted teacher lay-offs and program cuts in almost every part of the country. While states and districts come to terms with a new financial climate, a new Department of Education survey reports arts education is suffering the most under today's budgets, particularly in high-need communities.

At a school in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that overall the survey reports mixed results. Among the positive findings, in many districts there has not been a dramatic narrowing of arts curriculum. Music and visual arts classes are still widely offered nationwide and there hasn't been a decline in dance or drama offerings at the middle and high school level, despite conflicting reports.

While the findings are neutral for suburban districts, urban district programs are on the decline. The report finds that music and arts classes are still out of reach for many in high-need, high-poverty, and urban school districts. Duncan claimed, "It is deeply troubling that all students do not have access to arts education today." In 1999, 100% of school districts with a majority of "free or reduced lunch" students had music programs. Today, the figure stands at just 81%.

Among programs outside of music and art, far fewer public elementary schools are offering visual arts, dance and drama classes than a decade ago. The drop was most prominent in drama, from 20% of schools offering drama in 1999 to just 4% in 2009.

Although the survey is effective in outlining a picture of existing programs nationwide, most districts claim that while many of these programs still exist, most have been cut back either in time or staffing. One music teacher in Broward County, Florida, Anthony Tabacco knows the realities first hand. He now teaches music part-time at the school where he used to be a full-time employee. With his role scaled back, he spends less time with students in class and holiday and spring concerts have been canceled.

Obviously in examining this survey, the most troubling data shows an "equity gap" between the availability of arts instruction as well as the depth of course offerings for students in various areas. The Department of Education claims to be tackling this equity gap through their targeted waiver plan that would allow states greater budget flexibility.

Has your school or district cut back on arts education?
Comment below.

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