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Changing Education Policy: A Campaign and Organizing Tool

As a follow-up to Jane Remer’s piece yesterday, as well as the Arts Education Bill of Rights I posted a few weeks ago, here is another piece of the puzzle we’re putting together at The Center for Arts Education.

It is a campaign to restore dedicated funding for arts education in the New York City public schools. When Jane wrote about Project Arts yesterday, that is the dedicated funding we are seeking to restore.

It is not only a campaign in and of itself, with a theory of change and logic model we’ve developed, centered in a first phase that seeks to pass a resolution (#837) in the New York City Council, but it is also a vehicle for organizing and building a broad-based constituency necessary to advocate for arts education long-term.

Here’s the campaign sign-on letter, take a look at the partners, and note that we’ve got thousands of people signed on, including over 1,000 parents as part of a parent-led coalition that has formed around the campaign, a wide variety of organizations, celebrities, and over 30 City Council member co-sponsors to the resolution, and the community is growing daily. The letter is followed by the actual Resolution, and a list of the current City Council co-sponsors. Oh, and you will have to forgive the various fonts anomalies, for clipping all of this into the blog was tricky and I just could not get the fonts to all appear correctly.

Sign-On Letter

Dear Colleagues:


We are joining
together to call on the City to take an important step to restore quality arts
education in New York City‘s
public schools.


The NYC Department of Education’s assessments show that the City’s
public schools are not meeting state requirements for arts education. 
Hundreds of thousands of New York City public school students do not
have access to arts education – visual arts, music, dance, theater – in their
classrooms, despite state law
requiring a specific number of hours in arts be taught throughout a K-12
education.  In fact, according to the NYC
DOE, nearly 30% of schools have no certified arts teacher on staff, less than
half of middle school students are provided with the minimum state arts
requirements, and only 8% of elementary schools are even in the position to
meet minimum state requirements in the arts.


Ensuring that every child receives a quality
arts education is important to us because:

We agree with Mayor Bloomberg that, “arts
instruction is essential to a high-quality education.”

Learning in the arts connects to a wide array of
social and academic benefits

Education means developing a creative, critically
thinking mind that can meet the challenges of the 21st Century

A well-rounded education leads to better job
opportunities and enhances the ability to compete in a new, global marketplace

Arts are a critical part of New York City‘s civic engagement, culture and


National studies show that the arts not only
motivate kids to learn more; they also keep youth in school and graduating on
time. Unfortunately, data provided by the NYC Department of Education shows
that schools with the most low-income students offer the least arts
education.  Currently, new, stricter
graduation requirements are being implemented, and it is imperative that all
students receive at least the arts education they are entitled to by law supporting
their chances of graduation.   Without
the security of dedicated funding for arts education, the opportunity gap will
only continue to widen.


We must have a structure in place to
guarantee that all children can meet minimum standards for arts in the
schools.  To that end, we are urging the
City Council and the Mayor to designate a minimum amount of a principal’s
budget to be spent directly on arts education  – an essential step in ensuring every child receive a quality education
that includes the arts.


Please join us in signing the attached
letter to Mayor Bloomberg and members of the City Council.  You may return the letter with a signature or
send an email to Kira Streets, Director of Public Engagement at the Center for
Arts Education, who is coordinating our efforts, or feel free to contact any of
the undersigned to discuss these issues further.


Kira’s contact information is below:



of Public Engagement

The Center for Arts Education
225 West 34th Street, Suite 1112
New York, NY 10122
Phone: 212-971-3300×324

Fax: 212-268-5266



We believe that cultural, education, labor
and community organizations have an obligation to work together to ensure that
every child in New York City‘s
public schools receives a well-rounded education.




Richard Kessler, Executive Director, The
Center for Arts Education

Michael Mulgrew, Chief Operating Officer,
United Federation of

Billy Easton, Executive Director, The Alliance for Quality

Don Fann, Executive Director, Learning
Disabilities Association of New York City

Kim Sweet, Executive Director, Advocates for

Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM

Resolution #837

Res. No. 837



calling upon the New York City Department of Education to maintain a minimum
level of arts funding in New York City
public schools.



By Council Members Jackson,
Koppell, Recchia, Jr., Brewer, Comrie, Dickens, Felder, Fidler, Gentile, James,
Nelson, Sears, Stewart, Weprin, Liu, Mark-Viverito, Mendez, Katz, Garodnick, Yassky, Avella, Martinez, Reyna, Lappin, Gerson,
Vallone Jr., Foster, Arroyo, Palma, Mitchell and Oddo


As a result of the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, the New York City public school
system experienced a significant reduction in funding for arts education; and

            Whereas, In
1997, former Mayor Rudolph Guiliani created Project
ARTS (Arts Restoration to the Schools), which was designed to restore arts
education to City schools over a three year period; and

Project ARTS funding was intended to support direct instructional services,
professional development for educators, curriculum development, equipment, art
materials and supplies, as well as arts and cultural services; and

Project ARTS was initially allocated $25 million a year, has reached upwards of
$75 million a year, and in recent years, has received yearly allocations
totaling $67.5 million; and

             Whereas, According to The Center for Arts
Education, Project ARTS has been the “catalyst for the growth and expansion of
arts education over the past ten years”; and

            Whereas, The
importance of arts education and its positive impact on a student’s education
has been widely researched; and

A report by the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) shows a correlation between
instruction in the arts and greater student achievement and social development;

In addition, the AEP report found that economically disadvantaged students and
students in need of remedial instruction experience the most gains in learning
from arts education; and

In January 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg outlined his most recent Children
First School Reforms in his State of the City address; and

These reforms include four initiatives, one of which is the Public School
Empowerment Initiative, which gives principals greater discretion in running
their schools, including hiring personnel and managing the budget; and

Some arts advocates have expressed concern regarding the continuation of arts
programming in public schools since the Department of Education (DOE) has
indicated that funds previously earmarked for Project ARTS would now be made
available for principals to spend at their discretion; and

Arts advocates fear that principals may be inclined to spend funds on more
academic programs, rather than arts programs, in order to raise test scores to
meet accountability standards that were put forth in the most recent reform;

For example, in 2001 when former Chancellor Harold Levy allowed for the
redirection of Project ARTS funds to cover expenses unrelated to arts
education, arts education spending was reduced by fifty percent; and

Recognizing the importance of arts education, it is
imperative that the DOE take action to ensure that arts education programs
continue to be made available to all students; now, therefore be it

That the Council of the City of New York calls upon the New York City
Department of Education to maintain a minimum level of arts funding in New York
City public schools.

Co-Sponsors of Resolution #837


*Arroyo, Maria Del Carmen
*Avella, Tony
*Brewer, Gale A.
*Comrie, Jr., Leroy G.
*Dickens, Inez
*Felder, Simcha
*Fidler, Lewis A.
*Foster, Helen D.
*Garodnick, Daniel
*Gentile, Vincent J.
*Gerson, Alan J.
*Jackson, Robert
*James, Letitia
*Katz, Melinda R.
*Koppell, G. Oliver
*Lappin, Jessica
*Liu, John C.
*Mark-Viverito, Melissa
*Martinez, Miguel
*Mendez, Rosie
*Mitchell, Kenneth C.
*Nelson, Michael C.
*Oddo, James S.
*Palma, Annabel
*Recchia, Jr., Domenic M.
*Reyna, Diana
*Sears, Helen
*Stewart, Kendall
*Vallone, Jr., Peter F.
*Weprin, David I.
*Yassky, David


  1. Rich Nesin says

    My son is a first grader in a NYC Public School and he needs to receive an academic art education that complements the art he is exposed to by his family, the places we take him and the things he sees just growing up in this amazing city. Without that, he will miss out on a significant portion of the cultural enhancements he is so fortunately surrounded by. Don’t let opportunities for the future slip away.

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