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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cut the Arts In Ohio Public Schools and Cut Important Needs

Funding cuts in state budgets have forced public schools all across America to slash their arts programs.

Oscar Perez of the Associated Press reported the following:

"According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than 95 percent of school-aged children are attending schools that have cut funding since the recession. Schools in wealthier neighborhoods that faced budget cuts were able to make up for their losses through private donations, while schools in impoverished neighborhoods have not."

(Tyleah Hawkins. "Will less art and music in the classroom really help 
students soar academically?" The Washington Post. February 28, 2012)
As you might expect, schools serving children from low-income families are the first casualties of budget cuts in hard-pressed school districts struggling to meet other demands of the academic curriculum.

Senior Director Narric Rome of Federal Affairs and Arts Education at Americans for the Arts, a national organization that promotes the arts, explains ...

“The cuts that have been occurring for the past couple of decades ... however, with this recession, many arts advocates such as myself do not have a clue when some programs will be brought back. The entire system is very unstable; teachers are laid off one school year and brought back the next, or most times not brought back at all. If we are lucky enough to bring these programs back, they won’t be for a couple of years. Which means some students who are in school during these difficult economic times will completely miss out on the benefits of arts education.”

Are arts education programs that beneficial to students? Let's see what a new study from the National Endowment reports.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in this report titled “Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 2009-10” ...

“Low-income students who had arts-rich experiences in high schools were more than three times as likely to earn a B.A. as low-income students without those experiences. The study also reports that low-income high school students who earned few or no arts credits were five times more likely not to graduate from high school than low-income students who earned many arts credits.”

The arts have also proven to be a form of inspiration and expression for at-risk students. Sandra Ruppert, Director of the Arts Education Partnership, said, “This is especially true for under-served students who benefit most significantly from arts learning but are the least likely to receive a high-quality arts education.” 

According to a study titled “The Role of the Fine and Performing Arts in High School Dropout Prevention,” by the Center for Music Research at Florida State University, the following holds true:

“Students at risk of not successfully completing their high school educations cite their participation in the arts as reasons for staying in school. Factors related to the arts that positively affected the motivation of these students included a supportive environment that promotes constructive acceptance of criticism and one where it is safe to take risks.”

It is evident that arts education gives children an outlet for expressing themselves and channeling negative emotion into something positive. But, how does the arts address the current, increased attention to student performance on high-stakes testing in basic core subjects? Read on.

Research has also shown that arts education helps improve standardized test scores.

A study done by The College Board, a nonprofit association that works to make sure all students in the American educational system are college-ready, found that students who take four years of arts and music classes while in high school score 91 points better on their SAT exams than students who took only a half year or less (scores averaged 1070 among students in arts educations compared to 979 for students without arts education.) 

There is a misconception about the cognitive value of the arts. For the most part, people think about the arts as things that are affective and expressive, but not academic and cognitive. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Research shows arts education helps close the achievement gap and improves academic skills essential for reading and language development. The arts also help motivate students to learn.

The Washington Post reports that receiving constructive feedback is one of the 10 skills children learn from the arts. Through the arts, children learn feedback is an important part of learning and not something people should be offended by.

“In art, you are constantly getting critiqued by your peers, and you learn to take everything with a grain of salt, and you learn how to take other people’s advice to improve your work, even though you want to think that your idea is best,” said Galveston, Texas, high school senior Courtney Patterson.

Other skills on the Washington Post’s list include collaboration, dedication, perseverance and problem solving.

(Haley Davis. "Public school cuts cause decrescendo in college arts."
 The Baylor Lariat. December 05, 2013)

And, What About Ohio?
The issue of funding in Ohio is causing schools to be forced to choose between cutting specialists instead of being able to provide a comprehensive set of programs and services to all children. In the last four years, Ohio has not only cut state funding but also changed the way property taxes are calculated causing a decrease in local funds, too. 
Then, of course, you also have to realize school funds are being diverted to charter schools and via vouchers at an ever-increasing rate. 
Following more than two hours of debate on December 09, 2014, the state school board voted 14-5 to approve a resolution of intent to eliminate state minimum staffing requirements for “educational service personnel,” putting those decisions in the hands of each local school board.

The decision will do away with a state requirement that schools have certain numbers of art, music and physical-education teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses, social workers and visiting teachers. The decades-old, 5 of 8 rule mandates that schools have at least five of those eight positions for every 1,000 students.

The rule will now go through a legislative review process and return to the board for final approval in March.
The change was sought by school administrators and superintendents. Supporters say it is outdated and eliminating staffing requirements will give local districts more flexibility and control.

Critics say it will encourage cash-strapped schools to eliminate teachers and staff in areas not deemed essential to state standardized tests.

“Our state constitution makes the state responsible for educating our youth and thus the state should not shirk its obligation,” said A.J. Wagner, a board member from Dayton who opposed the resolution. Wagner continued ...

“We all know the rich schools are going to be fine. They are going to continue to hire those that they need. Poor schools that don’t have the money are the ones that are going to have to eliminate the nurses, social workers and the very people that are essential to making sure those students who are poor get a good education.” 

(Catherine Candisky. "State Board of Education votes to eliminate some 
staffing requirements." The Columbus Dispatch. December 09, 2014) 
The Ohio Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, said the new wording beat what was originally proposed but expressed disappointment that the "5 of 8" ratios were removed from state operating standards.
The State giveth and the State taketh away. And, State education seems to be forever offering the most to those with the most money and influence. Inequality in quality offerings from State education should be impermissible. 
Does Ohio realize many of its poorest schools produce its most talented expressionists -- musicians, artists, dancers, writers? These students discover the joy of the arts while very young; they continue to excel and to improve as they build skills that help them employ wonderful artistic careers.

The enrichment value of the arts for public school students is immeasurable. The study of the arts contributes to expertise in so many other professions, and it is also so vital in the personal lives of nearly everyone. The psychological and health benefits alone are tremendous aids to living a happy existence.
God help us so that Ohio legislators do not severely weaken strong arts education programs, especially those in poor public schools. How difficult is it to see that the arts are extremely beneficial to all students? Providing interesting, engaging, enjoyable arts education can make all the difference to in-need school districts where in-need students love humanistic subjects. 

"The heart of my Art
And the heart of a child
Are extremely fond of each other.
They love each other deeply;
They need each other constantly;
They are interdependent, sleeplessly."
- -Sri Chinmoy

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