Demands from an open letter drafted by more than 100 NYC teachers received attention during an education executive budget meeting at the City Council Tuesday, as the educators demanded more arts education funding for the city’s Department of Education.
The May 10 meeting saw City Council members, as well as Schools Chancellor David C. Banks, discuss the importance of investing in arts and cultural education within NYC public schools.
The NYC Arts in Education Roundtable – a service organization and community of arts practitioners – launched a campaign called ‘It Starts with the Arts’ several weeks ago, which is encouraging the mayor and city council to boost the current per student arts minimum allocation funding from $79.62 per student to $100 among other demands.
This particular demand was addressed during the education executive budget meeting, with city lawmakers saying that they recognized the need to prioritize arts education funding.
“We are pushing for the minimum allocation of $100 per student because I know, coming from a family of teachers, if they’re given money they are going to spend it on what they think is most important,” said Councilmember Justin Brannan during the meeting. “If it is earmarked for arts and music then it has to be used for arts and music, which is why we’re serious about that. “
In response to questions regarding future expansion and investment into the arts education budget, leaders familiar with the spending of the current budget maintained that arts investments were a top priority within the Department of Education.
“We have prioritized arts in the stimulus funding plan [with] the academic recovery allocation that went directly to schools – which was a $350 million allocation – requires 25% of that funding be spent directly on arts education programming,” said Lindsey Oates, Chief Financial Officer to the NYC DOE. “In addition, we have used stimulus money for a $15 million reduction to the arts budget, which has been critical to getting post-pandemic arts programs back with schools and we’ll continue to review opportunities going forward.”
Following the meeting, teachers and arts education specialists expressed excitement about the possibility to work in partnership with the DOE to further increase investments into the future of arts and cultural education within NYC DOE schools, which experts say are crucial to overall development of children.
“Arts education is truly a launch pad for success in school and in life,” said NYC Arts Education Roundtable executive director, Kimberly Olsen to amNew York. “Yet we so often see that the arts provide a space for students not only to learn, but also to grow in their social and emotional learning as well as they explore things like self-awareness, group awareness, collaboration and relationship building. Especially right now as we are hopefully transitioning out of the pandemic, our students need spaces where they can be in communities, spaces that promote and support their mental health and promote their overall wellbeing. We are excited and super charged by the City Council’s passion for arts education, the fact that they included it in their city budget response was just incredible and was so moving for so many of us. We are eagerly awaiting to see whether it will be included within our upcoming school budget.”