Advocating for the Arts
What's a Good Arts Education Program? Brought to you by the National PTA?
When it comes to arts education, many school districts have been faced with tough decisions. Confronted with reductions in funding, some school districts have eliminated (if they had ever even included) what they define as "fringe" programs -- including arts education. Parents may discover that the only arts education their district states it can afford is programming supplied by volunteers, or programming funded by outside sources. This is a real deprivation for students, all of whom should be able to benefit from good arts education programs.
What is a good arts education program? For starters, consider these criteria:
- Music and visual arts instruction from certified teachers, especially at the elementary level.
- Weekly instruction.
- Arts education integrated with other core curricula.
- Music programs, dance programs, plays, and exhibits.
National PTA has a long history of supporting arts education. Its most popular program, the 30-year-old Reflections Program, is devoted to increasing student participation in the arts. But in many school districts, PTAs are asked to supply additional assistance through funding, to supply talent, or to hire outside program presenters to replace instruction by certified personnel. In those cases, the district's arts education programming should be strengthened by the district itself.
Effective advocates for arts education must be able to explain that arts education benefits society because studying the arts gives students powerful tools for:
- Understanding human experiences.
- Learning to adapt to and respect others' ways of thinking.
- Learning creative modes of problem-solving.
- Understanding the cultural influences of the arts.
- Making decisions in situations where there are no standard answers.
- Analyzing nonverbal communication.
- Communicating thoughts and feelings in a variety of modes.
Finally, the most effective advocacy is that which reaches out to form partnerships with others who share common aims. Enlist the support of school board members, city council members who understand arts education issues, and community members who support the arts. This is especially important in order to secure funding needed for additional faculty and space requirements.
More on: The Arts