Los Angeles Schools are seeing a steady increase in arts education as the dual result of a long-term program and recent state funding. The Arts for All program was initiated in 2002 as a 10-year plan to restore arts education to the 80 districts of Los Angeles Schools. The project focuses on bringing music, dance, drama and the visual arts to K-12 schools in the area. Nine schools have just signed up for the 2007-2008 school year, bringing the total number of Los Angeles Schools involved up to 27.
Two of the newest participants are the Lancaster and Palmdale districts of Los Angeles Schools. Both schools completely eliminated their elementary music programs in the last decade due to budget cuts and increased pressure to perform on state tests. Major cuts first began for Los Angeles Schools with Proposition 13 in 1978. This California mandate reduced property taxes and district funds, which required all Los Angeles Schools to reduce or eliminate arts and physical education classes.
Los Angeles Schools were pleased when the state announced funding of $500 million for art, music and physical education classes in the beginning of June. Los Angeles Schools will use much of these funds for the Arts for All Program. Arts for All is built on a five-step process which, while proven effective, costs money. The five steps involved are:
1.Allocating 5% of a district’s budget to arts education
2.Having a board adopted policy
3.Creating an implementation plan with a timeline
4.Assigning a district level arts coordinator
5.Maintaining a student to arts teacher ratio of 400:1
Los Angeles Schools will pay for a program expert to guide parents, staff and community members in the creation of their implementation plan. The Lancaster district has an additional grant of $260,000 for its art and music programs.
Los Angeles Schools welcome the increased funding as a long overdue measure. Many educators in the Los Angeles Schools have lamented the loss of the arts as harmful to student development. While many of the cuts to arts education result from diverting funds to cover academic subjects needed to pass state tests, teachers argue that art actually enhances learning, allows children to make connections between subjects, and provides a much needed balance to education.
Like the rest of the country’s urban districts Los Angeles Schools are trying to meet the 2014 No Child Left Behind requirement that mandates proficiency on state tests by all students regardless of developmental delays or language barriers. Diverting funding away from the arts has put Los Angeles Schools in a situation where children as young as third grade are losing recess, physical activity and a basic arts background in a frenzied scramble to meet rising national standards.