In performing art instructor but it was

In
recent years, the availability of art programs for LAUSD students has begun to
diminish and it has been hard to keep the hope up that the arts will make a
comeback to LAUSD schools. As a senior in high school in 2009, I can recall at
least five visual art teachers. A few years later I heard of all five teachers
leaving and one sole art teacher being hired to teach a basic drawing class. As
of today, from their school website, there is currently two visual art teachers
with only two different classes being taught, a huge difference from the nearly
eight different classes that were taught when I was attending that very same
school.

As
a future art educator, I take it to heart when I hear of art programs being cut
from schools and as a minority, it affects me even more. As I continue my
studies, I currently hold a position in a LAUSD middle school that has
undergone various changes that come with new administrators. While having at
least one of the arts (visual or performing) being offered to students is good,
offering multiple arts to students is ideal. So, when I heard that our
administrators chose to displace our only visual arts teacher, I was angry.
Yes, they hired a performing art instructor but it was unfair to students that
both teachers could not have stayed. Stories of art teachers being let go or
moved to other schools is not unheard of which is the unfortunate part of the
times that we are in. My school is “lucky” that we have at least one art
program while some schools do not have any art program at all.

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Why
is it that when budget cuts are proposed and implemented, it’s the arts that
get hit the hardest? Upon more research, I found that the LAUSD arts program
has lost more than 50% of its funding which is a sad and harsh reality.
According to the Arts Education and Creative Cultural Network Plan (2012-17),
in 2008 there were three hundred and thirty-five full-time itinerant elementary
art teachers. That number fell to two hundred and fifty in 2011 and fell again
to two hundred and sixteen in 2012. That was two hundred and sixteen teachers
to serve all of the district’s elementary schools and primary centers. As of
October 2017, there are four hundred and sixty-seven LAUSD elementary schools
and primary centers and two hundred and twenty-five itinerant elementary art
teachers, an increase of nine teachers from 2012. (LAUSD. L.A. Unified
Fingertip Tips.) By the time the average student graduates, he or she will have
spent less than 2% of their education in the arts and that is an extremely
saddening fact to face as a future art educator.

For
white students, having spent less than 2% of their education in the arts might
not affect them as much as it would a minority student. The number of minority
students in LAUSD is rising and it’s no surprise. According to the L.A Unified
Fingertips fact sheet, over 70% of students enrolled in LAUSD are Latino. While
the arts are important to students from different ethnic backgrounds, it’s the
minority students that my research was focused on. The more I researched, I was
brought to the fact that minority students also fall into the category of
at-risk students. As risk students can be defined as being in one of the
following categories: an underachiever, economically disadvantage, emotionally
unstable, delinquent, lacking motivation, lacking academic progress,
chronically truant and of course what I found to be most important, a minority.
(Vang)

Art
education has become almost a stigma in society, parents not wanting their
children to go into art with the belief that the arts are simply not important.
Because of budget cuts, the arts are slowly disappearing from public schools.
The biggest opponent to the arts has perhaps been the president of the United
States. As much as it pains me to say, President Trump has proposed eliminating
the National Endowment for the Arts. He also proposed eliminating the National
Endowment for the Humanities as well as the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting. Since the creation of the endowments in 1965, not a single
president has called for their end. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed
legislation we “fully value the arts, the humanities, and cultural activity.”
(Deb) It’s been proven countless times that the arts are indeed important. “The
arts are a fundamentally important part of culture, and an education without
them is an impoverished education leading to an impoverished society.”
(Hetland) We should not have to argue that the arts are just as important as
any other subjects, societies have always praised the arts as a form of
learning, knowing and expressing.

There
are three interrelated themes in arts education with minority communities: the
arts for academic development, the arts for personal and community identity
development and the arts for social/justice change. Many educators, officials
and communities believe in the absolute conviction to the role of the arts in
creating the learning environment needed for minority students in high-poverty
schools to achieve academically, thrive outside of school and graduate to be
career and college-ready. (Herbert) At the 2014 White House Initiative on
Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH), former Education Secretary Arne
Duncan spoke citing the benefits of arts education, particularly for Latino
students and acknowledged the face that an “arts opportunity gap” exists for
many students in high-poverty schools. (Herbert) “We
cannot promote a brighter future for our students and our country,” former Secretary
Duncan told the WHIEEH attendees, “without advocating for the arts as a
critical subject in education. Duncan even went on to say that him and the
former President Obama agreed that the arts are important when it comes to student
learning, achievement, and success.” In a questions and answers session with
several black artists, the Oklahoma Gazette posed an interesting set of
questions. One artist stated that he fears “that without the opportunities to
explore one’s creative nature, black and other students of color will succumb
to the lackadaisical world of underfunded public schools.” (Luschen)

As an artist, I can clearly remember
struggling in the beginning of my art education. It was difficult for me to my
place in the art world because I wasn’t aware that I could essentially lose
myself in my art and find myself again. Art has the potential to provide
something to a student that otherwise would be found in the streets and in
gangs. Many students find their identity through the art they create, an art
room can provide the essential ingredients for a poor child who lacks purpose
and hope. The arts provide ways for children to create and communicate their
own individual cultures, to experience the differences and similarities among
the cultures of family or nationality that are imprinted on different forms of
art, and to discover the common features of expression that attest to a human
connection contained in and beyond difference. (Chappell) The experiences that
art provide are integral to the development of students of every background but
particularly minority students. Minority students should be able to see
themselves and their stories on walls, stages and televisions. When minority
students are able to see themselves in artistic platforms, they will no longer
inherently connect the art to anyone else buy themselves and that is a huge
stepping points for a student’s personal and community development.

Students can and should be in charge
of changing the circumstances of their lives, with creative production at the
heart of this process. Minority students are well
aware of how the world seems them, with an emerging sense of how they want to
be seen, as well as how they want to see themselves. This struggle to articulate
developing critical self and world awareness is at the center of many arts
education projects. (Chappell) Using art to create personal narratives and
testimonies of struggle are exactly why the arts are needed in schools. Giving
minority students the opportunity to voice their experiences is what helps them
grow and helps them reach out into their own community to create the change
that they want to see. In the same Oklahoma Gazette interview, one artist
called black kids “some of the most creative and trendsetting people in the
world.” Not allowing these students to pursue the arts is equivalent to taking
their voice away, taking away their opportunity to create change not only in
their life but in their community. When you take away the arts, it’s showing
students that no one cares and aren’t important in this world. I believe former
Secretary Duncan said it best “if you believe you’re going to die at 16, 17,
18, you live a very different life than if you believe you’re going to live to
be 65, 70, 80, or 90.” And former San Francisco Superintendent Richard Carranza
had an even greater statement at the WHIEEH, holding his right hand as if to
finger the valves of a Mariachi trumpet, he observed that “when students have
this in their hand, they won’t hold this,” letting his fingers rotate 90
degrees downward to mimic a handgun grip. (Herbert)

            In a 2015 LAUSD study done to account for art programs at
its campuses, only thirty-five out of the over seven hundred schools would get
an “A” citing a lack of basic supplies, orchestra classes not having enough
instruments thousands of elementary and middle school students not receiving
any arts instruction at all. In 2012, the LAUSD Arts Education Branch prepared
and presented a plan to address the crisis in art education. The Arts Education
and Creative Cultural Network Plan as it is called or AECCNP, is an intensive
piece citing the various problems that LAUSD is facing in regard to their arts
programs, the various movements aiding in restoring arts to LAUSD schools and
the resolution that Board Member Nury Martinez presented on October 9, 2012.
The resolution was proposed with the intentions “to assure equitable access to
quality arts instruction across LAUSD and to address District goals for
achievement and equity by establishing arts education as a core subject.” (LAUSD.
Arts Education Branch) As per the 2012 model, it was “antiquated, ineffective
and incapable of providing the consistency and level of quality needed by all
the students.” The AECCNP moves on to state that
having clung to that model would made it unfeasible to staff and sustain a
District-wide, sequential arts education program that could equitably reach all
students.

            The AECCNP’s premise “will be an expansion of, not a
substitute for, sequential comprehensive curriculum and instruction in dance,
music, theatre and visual arts. The plan itself solidifies the idea that the
arts are a great method of connecting and relating to other subjects and that
because of this, students become better at fostering relevancy, creativity and
critical thinking. Because I agree with the majority of the AECCNP’s
ideologies, I’ve chosen to support the solutions the plan proposes in response
to the challenges that the arts are facing. The chart on the following page
cites those challenges and recommended solutions that were presented in the
AECCNP. In alignment with my stance, I gathered what I believed to be the most
pertinent challenges and recommendations and consolidated them into one chart.

Schools
that have already integrated the arts into the curriculum as part of a
comprehensive education reform strategy are documenting positive changes in the
school environment and improved student performances. As presented before, the
growing body of studies with gripping evidence connecting student learning in
the arts to a wide range of academic and social benefits continues to grow.
These studies continue to prove that the arts are needed for academic
development, personal and community identity development and the social and/or justice
change. Before the AECCNP was presented and despite convincing research and
strong public support, the arts remained on the margins of education, often the
last to be added and the first to be dropped in times of strained budgets and
shifting priorities. My hope is that with the AECCNP, the arts will finally see
the action needed to place the arts front and center on education agendas in every
office that matters. There is no denying that our students, our minority students
especially, need the arts more now than ever.