One of the bits of good news I read on Twitter this past week is that a four-million dollar grant from the Wallace Foundation is making it possible to expand visual and performing arts education through grade eight in the Boston Public Schools. You can read more about efforts to support the arts in Boston schools here. On the West coast though the news this week was grim. The Los Angeles Unified School District has proposed the total elimination of its elementary school arts programs.
This is of course a familiar story. Where one school district finds a way to support or even expand arts education offerings for its students during hard economic times, another district decides to close the doors to its arts classrooms.
Reading about the dire situation with arts education in LA and its expansion in Boston’s schools reminded me how fragile support is for arts education in this country. It also got me searching my shelves for a book I’ve mentioned here before on “arts education advocacy” that I purchased from the NAEA very early in my career. As I flipped through its pages once again, I came across the following statement by Ralph McGee who was the Principal of New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois during the 70s. In 1976, he wrote:
The arts are thriving at New Trier, but the haunting spectre of a financial crisis looms large and threatens what has been built over the past seventy-five years in our school district. While I am still optimistic about the future of arts in public schools, as all educators in the arts well know, the next few years will be difficult.
Yes they will, Ralph. Yes, they will.