School Board Approves Budget for Arts Classes
The Los Angeles Board of Education took the first step Monday toward restoring arts in the classroom, unanimously approving a modest budget for materials, teacher training and advisors.
Calling on the city’s booming arts and entertainment industry to follow suit with financial support, the board dipped into the school district’s reform budget for $2.45 million in seed money.
“It’s a beginning,” said Steven Lavine, president of CalArts, the arts college in Valencia. “It’s not enough money to get the job done, but it’s a real demonstration of will on the part of the district to go forward.”
In its first year, the program will provide an average of $3,000 in arts materials and one day of training for a team of three teachers and one administrator for every elementary school.
Specialists will be hired in dance, music, theater and visual arts to advise elementary and secondary schools.
In addition, two schools from each of the district’s 27 administrative clusters will be designated as prototypes for the arts curriculum that is being developed.
Supt. Ruben Zacarias assured board members that the money would become a permanent fixture in the district budget, without detracting from current programs to reform the way schools are budgeted and operated.
“I’m very happy,” said board member Valerie Fields, who campaigned for her office last year on a platform of bringing arts instruction back after decades of neglect.
But Fields said more money is needed in the future.
“It’s just a drop in the bucket,” Fields said.
In New York City, the city and county recently gave public schools a $75-million grant for the arts.
Acting on Fields’ proposal, the school board adopted standards in March declaring that arts will be incorporated in every grade level with testing to ensure that students learn.
As a condition of graduation, every student--including those who are not artistically inclined--would have to demonstrate an ability to interpret art and to create it.
In adopting the standard, the board gave district staff three months to work out an implementation plan.
Several speakers told the board that arts instruction has languished because it is perceived as a “frill,” rather than an area of study that leads to employment in Southern California’s booming entertainment industry.
“Implementation of an arts program at every level of every school is an essential,” Lavine of CalArts said.
Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs and Harold Williams, president emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Trust, both urged approval of the program, saying they believe the district’s initiative will lead to more participation by private industry.
Arts instruction has suffered because of lack of funding, a dearth of teachers and the toughening of graduation requirements, making it difficult for students to take arts electives.
Declaring the absence of arts education “a glaring lack for a long time,” board member Jeff Horton chided “megabucks” Hollywood industries for not doing more to help.
“We need to lead the way,” Horton said. “There is no longer any excuse.”
Four independently run charter schools were given votes of confidence as the Los Angeles Board of Education endorsed new five-year mandates for the campuses. B3