Despite White House Report Advocating Arts Education, Budgets Face Cuts

Value to students no match for hard economic times.

ByMatt Phifer
May 11, 2011, 5:10 PM

May 13, 2011— -- Funding for the arts and music in schools was thrust back into the limelight last Friday as the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities released a report urging educators to re-invest in arts education.

Over an 18-month period, the committee gathered information from multiple studies and sources about the benefits of arts education and offered ways to bring the arts to underserved schools.

Taking the findings of its report, PCAH is making five recommendations to create a well-rounded K-12 education in American schools. They include building "collaborations among different approaches" for teaching the arts, expanding "in-school opportunities for teaching artists," and utilizing "federal and state policies to reinforce the place of arts in K-12 education."

The committee's report also revealed two major themes. One theme is the diverse style of teaching the arts across the country due to "nonprofit community organizations, visionary school principals, private philanthropy, and parent groups."

The second is the need to more widely distribute quality arts education so that it is available to more students. PCAH acknowledged that arts education is disproportionately unavailable to students in lower-income schools.

Nick Rabkin, a senior research scientist at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, whose research was cited in PCAH's report, is cautiously optimistic that President Obama's interest in the arts may translate into support for arts education.

"It's a hopeful sign. The President's Committee on Arts and Humanities is not the Secretary of Education even though Arne Duncan wrote the introduction to the report," Rabkin told "It doesn't have a budget to do this. Secretary Duncan does, and Secretary Duncan's got a soap box to stand on and preach to the states' education commissioners all across the country to make changes in state policy too."

A Battle Over Funding

As the White House released its findings, the battle over funding for arts education continues in towns across America.

Dave Gallaro, a parent and marching band field staff member at Jordan-Elbridge High School in Jordan, N.Y., is concerned about the music program in his district -- so concerned, in fact, that he recently decided to run for the local school board. The music program is slated for a 41 percent cut in the band budget, $24,000 out of $59,000. The athletic program is facing a 28 percent cut, he told, but that program starts with $500,000.

Music and Arts Programs Face Deep Cuts

Jordan, a village in central New York, is not alone.

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