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AFTA: Statement on Arts Education in Public Schools Upon The Appointment of Betsy DeVos

Feb. 17, 2017 | Americans for the Arts

Americans for the Arts is pleased to launch our new Arts Mobilization Center which is your hub for the information you need to advocate for the arts today. We are sharing this information with you, our members, first because we appreciate that you are our strongest advocates. The Arts Mobilization Center contains messages that I have distributed, policy response statements Americans for the Arts has issued on key and timely topics, news articles you may find useful, and important action steps for you to take now and in the weeks and months to come. 
We launch the Arts Mobilization Center with a new statement today. Below please find a Statement on Arts Education in Public Schools Upon The Appointment of Betsy DeVos. Americans for the Arts stands in steadfast support of public schools in America and federal, state, and local policies that enable the pursuit of equity in access to arts education for America's students. 
Americans for the Arts continues to work on a series of policy response statements, talking points, and gathering of other arts advocacy news for you to use in your support of arts education in light of the changes at the U.S. Department of Education. We will continue to provide updates through our regular arts education related communications including the arts education listserv and Arts Ed Field Notes.
As always, please know that Americans for the Arts stands with you, our members, and the work you are doing to support arts education in your state and community. We appreciate all that you are doing on behalf of our schools, educators, and children.
Statement on Arts Education in Public Schools Upon The Appointment of Betsy DeVos
On February 7, 2017, Elisabeth P. 'Betsy' DeVos was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the U.S. Secretary of Education. Ms. DeVos's background in the school choice movement and her testimony before the Senate education committee indicates an inclination to redirect public investment away from our nation's public school system and toward private schools.
We believe that a continued investment in the Department of Education and strong support of the public school system is the best way to ensure that all students—in every community across the country—receive a high-quality arts education. The Department of Education champions legislation and policies like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and the arts-friendly provisions in it, to achieve equity in access to arts education for all students.  Americans for the Arts will continue to aggressively pursue federal, state, and local policies that support the arts as a part of the school curriculum in all schools—public and private. We will oppose efforts that limit the opportunity for every child to receive a quality arts education. 
Implications for the Arts
Ms. DeVos's confirmation process raised the possibility of support for policies that may negatively impact arts education. ESSA ensures a well-rounded education for every student—which includes rigorous, sequential, standards-based preK-12 arts instruction in the classroom, integration of the arts within other academic subjects, and support for participation and learning in community-based arts programs. A move away from the ESSA legislation towards privatization or a voucher system would threaten the funding and resources necessary to realize the goal of equity in access to arts education for America's students. 
The Arts Prepare Students for School, Work and Life
  • Through the arts, students learn the skills necessary to succeed in life, including learning to solve problems and make decisions, think creatively, and accept responsibility to complete tasks from start to finish. 
  • Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points higher on the verbal and math portions of their SATs than students with just one-half year of arts or music. 
  • Nine in 10 American adults believe that it is important for students to receive an education in the arts—including dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts—as part of the curriculum in elementary school (88 percent), middle school (90 percent), and high school (89 percent).
  • Despite the importance of the arts education, only 61 percent of Americans believe that students in their area have enough access to the arts. Rural and low income respondents were the most likely to cite a concern about access to arts education.  
You Can Make a Difference
  • Make your voice heard. We are staying in contact with Congress and the U.S. Department of Education on this issue. You should, too. Join the Arts Action Fund to take political action. It's free. We will send you alerts so you can respond to decision-makers fast. 
  • Inform us of any specific actions impacting arts education in your community resulting from changes at the U.S. Department of Education.  (Email Jeff Poulin at jpoulin@artsusa.org).
  • Tell your story about the power of arts education. Orchard Gardens School in Roxbury, Mass., was a failing K-8 public school, plagued with violence, and ranked in the bottom five of all public schools in the state. The principal made the bold choice to remove the security guards and replace them with art teachers instead. With aggressive integration of the arts across the curriculum, Orchard Gardens became one of the fastest student improvement schools statewide within just three years.
  • You are not alone! Americans for the Arts organizes Arts Advocacy Day, which is cosponsored by 85 national organizations, representing thousands of arts, culture, business and education organizations nationwide. Register to attend National Arts Advocacy Day on March 20-21 in Washington, D.C. and you can add your voice in person.

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