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L.A. Board OKs Measure to Step Up Arts Education

CORRECTED

The Los Angeles school board voted yesterday to elevate the arts to an essential "core" subject and to gradually restore budget cuts for it. In addition, the unanimously approved resolution instructed the superintendent to develop a plan to integrate the arts across the curriculum as the 664,000-student system moves to implement the Common Core State Standards.

"For me, the issue of restoring and growing arts education and integrated arts instruction is a matter of social justice and educational equity," said Nury Martinez, the board member who authored the resolution, in a press release.

To help make her case, Martinez was joined by actors Cheech Marin (of Cheech & Chong fame, and a former LAUSD student) and Monica Rosenthal (from "Everybody Loves Raymond").

The resolution calls on Superintendent John Deasy to match or exceed arts funding to the level in 2007-08, before a series of what the press release calls "massive budget deficits that crippled district finances across-the-board."

The number of full-time elementary arts specialists employed by the district has declined from 345 in 2008 to 204 today. In addition, at the secondary level, the district employs 438 visual arts teachers, 336 music teachers, 158 theater teachers, and 82 dance teachers, according to information supplied by the district. Since 2008, the district has reduced elementary arts spending by 40 percent.

The action comes just a day after the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education announced a $4 million campaign, called Arts Matter, to raise public awareness about the importance of arts education for the city's schools, and to support the development of arts integration curricula.

"As the center of the creative economy, every L.A. student should receive the benefits of daily creative learning," said Superintendent Deasy in the press release announcing Arts Matter.

For more on arts integration, check out this EdWeek story on the push to expand STEM to STEAM with an "A" for the arts, plus another about integrating dance across the curriculum, which includes an example from none other than the Los Angeles district.

In fact, a dance specialist from LAUSD joined me in July 2011 for an EdWeek webinar on arts integration.

CORRECTION: The original version of this post did not reflect a full picture of the number of arts teachers in the Los Angeles school district. It only reflected arts specialists at the elementary level.

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