Art classes are often the first to be sacrificed from school curriculums when budgets get cut — which makes the 2014–15 New York City Department of Education “Annual Arts in Schools Report” a welcome bit of good news for young artists in the five boroughs. According to the report, arts education in New York City public schools expanded in 2015, with 175 new positions added after four years of maintaining 2,400 certified art teachers in the system.
This growth is partly thanks to a new $5.3 million staffing program called Arts Matter, which allows middle and high schools to share dance, music, art, and theater teachers. The program brought art instruction to some 22,000 new students this year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio allotted $23 million in new funding towards school arts initiatives this past fiscal year, and the total budget increased from $336 million in 2013–14 to $368 million in 2014–15. Still, 51% of school administrators responding to the report’s survey said that fiscal concerns pose the greatest challenge to providing quality art instruction.
And despite the growth, the city hasn’t yet reached its goal of providing all public school students with comprehensive arts instruction. Even if a school provides classes in one area, like the visual arts, it might lack them in others, like music, dance, or theater. For example, 92% of responding high schools provide visual art instruction, but only 19% of those schools offer dance classes.
“In today’s city, with issues of inequality all around us, the question of providing equal opportunity for a quality arts education transcends education. It is an issue of justice,” the report’s conclusion reads. “The arts, and the qualities and skills the arts build, offer young people a path to literacy, the ability to qualify for good jobs in the new economy, a sense of empathy for other views and other people, and the hope of becoming involved and productive citizens. An education without the arts is an education that handicaps rather than enables.”
Read the full report here.