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New York City Arts in Education Roundtable, Educators, Students, and City Council Members Call On Mayor To Address Inequality In Schools

Research shows that arts education improves student performance, mental health and the overall chances of success later in life.

By: Jun. 15, 2023
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Today, as City lawmakers debate the final budget - the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable, educators, students, and City Council Members including Majority Leader Keith Powers, Chair of Education Committee Rita Joseph and Chair of Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations Chi Ossé will called on the Mayor and the City Council to guarantee all schools have a certified arts teacher and address systematic inequality.

Before the pandemic, a majority of principals reported that funding for the arts was insufficient to give all students a basic foundation in arts education. After three years of COVID the imperative to provide all students with a sound arts education has strengthened. Engagement in the arts can get students struggling to thrive socially, emotionally, and academically back on track. Research shows that arts education improves student performance, mental health and the overall chances of success later in life.

In the NYC Department of Education Arts in Schools report, they found "53% of students had completed two or more arts courses (half-units) in any arts discipline by the end of their eighth-grade year in 2021-2022, a decrease from the previous year and a sharp decrease from pre-pandemic rates" and only 34% of middle schoolers met the NYSED arts education requirement. More than 315 schools (17%) do not have a certified arts teacher at their school, furthering inequity in our city's school system. There were 2783 full-time arts teachers in 2021-2022 school year serving 919,136 students. That's 330 students for every one arts teacher.

The "It Starts with the Arts" coalition is calling on the Mayor and the City Council to hire more certified arts teachers ($31M) - which is in alignment with the "New" New York Plan. Arts education and exposure to New York City's cultural riches should be an essential component of every child's education. To support the hiring pipeline, the city should bring back the successful supplementary certification pilot program enabling cluster teachers to earn their arts content certification.

According to a report by Americans for the Arts, students from low-income communities who are highly engaged in the arts are more likely to have obtained gainful employment, completed college, and volunteered in their communities than peers with low arts involvement. Students from low-income communities who are highly engaged in the arts are also more than twice as likely to graduate college as peers with no arts education.

"For my whole political career I have fought for arts education because it's personal to me," said City Council Finance Chair Justin Brannan. "I got to travel the world all thanks to the guitar lessons I was lucky to have as part of my public school education. That experience has made me a better elected official in surprising, but direct and impactful ways. Arts education unlocks opportunities, and all kids across our city deserve a chance to have them."

"I am proud to fight for our students to have universal access to an arts education," said City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. "The arts are so much more than an 'extra' curricular. They are essential, and New York City must be a leader in ensuring that all of our 1 million students across the 5 boroughs have access to an enriching curriculum."

"Arts Education is essential within our school system and it cannot be seen as an afterthought. It is time for us to educate the whole child and invest in the arts. By doing this we will open doors of opportunities for New York City students," said Council Member Rita Joseph

"I join the city's families, educators, and advocates in the call to fully fund 'It Starts With the Arts," said Council Member Chair of Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations. "Ensuring that all schools and students have access to an arts education is to the benefit of the kids, their families, and the broader city. Arts education nurtures social-emotional wellness, improves academic outcomes and prepares students to enter the workforce, all while increasing parent involvement and attendance rates. The City budget should guarantee this funding to build a stronger and healthier New York for all."

"This is a time when we need the arts more than ever. It is not only a critical form of human expression in its own right; but through education and participation, the arts have the ability to create empathy, teach collaboration, and foster human connection, said Erika Atkins, Executive Director of Bloomingdale School of Music. "New York City is the cultural center of the United States. Therefore, it should be at the forefront of this work and have the most accessible arts resources in our country. Arts educators and cultural institutions in this city can not do this without the support of our city's leadership, and we call on you to make this investment in the arts community, so we have a stronger city tomorrow."

"The approach to supporting students in a post-pandemic era "Starts With The Arts," said Judith Insell, Executive Director of Bronx Arts Ensemble. "Bronx Arts Ensemble has found that our Bronx students are meeting the challenges of their residual pandemic trauma by utilizing our arts education courses to help them heal, reflect, & renew their spirit as they continue to meet the daily challenges of their lives."

"Workforce development, social emotional health and wellbeing, empathy for others, increased parent engagement, academic rigor and success - it all starts with the arts, "said Kimberly Olsen, Executive Director of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable. "Arts and cultural education remains a critical lifeline for our students seeking outlets for joy, community, and self-expression. After years of underinvestment and declining access, we call on our city leaders to ensure all students have equitable access to a sequential arts education. As potential budget cuts are lost, this is the moment to invest in arts education as an evidence-based strategy to positively engage our city's young people."

In addition to hiring certified arts teachers, the It Starts With Arts Campaign is calling on the City to:

  • Restore funding for Arts Services to pre-COVID budget level ($24M): Including Arts Partnership Grants that provide targeted opportunities for diverse student groups, with a focus on Multilingual Learners, Students with Disabilities, and Family Engagement.

  • Require DOE arts funding be spent on the arts ($76M): Require schools to allocate a minimum of $100 per student (from $80.15) for core arts instruction and programming, and require that money be spent on arts education.

  • Continue and increase "Support for Arts Instruction'' initiative funding ($6M): Build on city's downpayment to meet city-wide demand for increased arts learning opportunities.

  • Update NYCDOE's Arts & Cultural Services Guide technology and platform ($500k): Support one-time technology updates needed to improve search features and fix mechanisms to add new organizations (including M/WBEs and small nonprofits).