While many school districts have decreased art education funding, Union County Public Schools (UCPS) staff said the district’s students don’t have to worry.
Art and music are considered core academic subjects under the Every Child Achieves Act that the U.S. Senate recently passed, which requires the arts be regarded with equal importance as its counterparts, such as English, mathematics and science.
Dr. John Jones, UCPS assistant superintendent of instructional programs, said art education, whether visual or performing, helps increase emotional benefits, such as increased self-concept, self-expression and confidence.
UCPS offers theater arts, music education and visual arts designed for each grade level. Students are often individually assessed and given appropriate art opportunities, according to the district’s middle school curriculum guide.
The Arts In Education program at the U.S. Department of Education has seen multiple decreases over the years, from $30 million in the 2002 fiscal year to $25 million in the 2015 fiscal year.
Jones claims art education funding in UCPS has not decreased over the past five years, but sustained; however, he did not provide a specific amount. He said the school system’s budget has allocated art education funding within its general fund and instructional funds, but have not distinguished a separate line item for art education.
Principals can use the instructional funds as needed to support art programs and materials within individual schools. Jones said 85 to 86 percent of the funding goes toward personnel costs.
Specific arts needs have been laid out within budgets, such as a $45,000 allocation toward band equipment in the 2014-15 fiscal year budget, a $43,000 allocation toward “contracted services with arts council” in the 2011-12 fiscal year budget and $4,000 allocations to each high school, including Central Academy of Technology and Arts, but not Union Early College, in the district for “band and drama” in the 2012-13 fiscal year budget.
Jones said overall funding has sustained throughout the years because the district’s superintendent and board of education believe it’s “crucial” to retain the programs.
Lindsay Jones, director of humanities, said the district has no future plans to decrease funding for arts education in future budgets.
However, arts education funding has not historically fared well across the nation, as arts programs are often the first item cut when school district budgets become tight.
Union County Community Arts Council (UCCAC) Executive Director Barbara Faulk said she’s seen arts education slashed on a national and state level and the UCCAC is in a position to assist with filling any gaps in the public school system and ensure children, even before they start kindergarten, have opportunities to experience art.
“I think schools do everything they can in their budgets,” she added. “I’d like to see (more) funding restored. We have qualified teachers and administration, but they can only do so much.”
The arts council supports approximately 56 schools in the district.
Dr. Jones said UCPS has been thankful for its partnership with the UCCAC, as the council will approach the district regard its needs. The council offers access to theater performances, art programs and art grants to teachers and schools to support the district.
Faulk, who has served the arts council since 1987, said school systems can place an emphasis on sports, but arts can provide a niche for non-athletes and can enhance their confidence, social skills and self-esteem.
“I’ve seen students succeed and change because they’ve had a positive art experience,” she said. “I think it just completes a child’s overall educational experience. There are many statistics and studies that show the impact art education has on a child’s learning.”
Faulk hopes community members see the importance and benefits of art education and students opt more for art programs. Faulk said students who engage in art education over their four-year high school career are more likely to earn 100 more points on their SATs and participate in math and science fairs and schools saw decreases in drop out rates and bullying.
“The arts cross all boundaries,” she said.