Lawmakers, artists and educators are urging Mayor Eric Adams to increase funding for art in schools, arguing that the pandemic has made it even more important for students to be able to express themselves through dance, music and visual arts.
Last summer, the Department of Education recommended that principals allocate $ 79.62 per year. students of art programming. But the support per. student is not required; principals may allocate these funds as they see fit. Many administrators enthusiastically use these resources for the arts, but some do not.
According to the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable, 67% of principals said art funding is inadequate.
Now New York City councilors want to see art support increased to $ 100 per year. student, and they want the funding to be dedicated to the arts, not just recommended. In their formal response to the mayor’s budget, councilors said the city should set aside a portion of the remaining federal stimulus money to help increase funding for art education.
“No exaggeration, the three chords I learned at McKinley Junior High School took me around the world as a professional musician,” said Councilman Justin Brannan, who chairs the Finance Committee and was a touring hardcore punk musician before entering politics. “We must end the era where art and music are considered ‘extra’ instead of essential education.… All elementary school students in New York City deserve a high-quality education with a robust internal art and music curriculum.”
Proponents said the investment is more crucial than ever.
Kimberly Olsen, CEO of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable, said she has always strongly believed in the power of art to engage students, but said art has become a lifeline during the pandemic.
Olsen, a special education teacher at a District 75 school, produced a virtual musical starring her Brownsville students in the spring of 2020. She noted that even students who had been chronically absent from their academic classes showed up for online auditions.
“The students appeared on the zoom screen and it was like ‘Oh god, we haven’t seen you in a few weeks!’ she said.
Now that the schools are back in person, Olsen said she has noticed that students who were painfully embarrassed during the pandemic are finding their voices as artists.
“Kids who were reluctant to speak in a group are now doing it on stage,” she said. “We see the students come out of the shells.”
Proponents emphasize that art programming in schools not only benefits students, it supports the city’s broader ecosystem of musicians, artists and visual artists, thousands of whom earn a living through their work as educators in schools.
Meanwhile, proponents say, the partnerships between many cultural organizations and schools benefit both, and urban funding is crucial to maintaining those connections.
At a council hearing on Tuesday, education department finance director Lindsey Oates said the agency is reviewing the council’s proposal, adding that it has prioritized the arts, including requiring part of federal stimulus funding to be used for art programming in schools.
Education officials said the city spent $ 400 million on art in schools last year.
“When we come out of the pandemic, art is a critically important outlet for expression, connection and healing for our young people,” said department spokeswoman Jenna Lyle. “We look forward to continuing to prioritize art education across all NYC zip codes.”