Background on Arts in Education

Ballet Dancer

No Child Left Behind and the Arts

Signed by President Bush in January of 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) lists the arts as one of the ten "core academic subjects" of public education, thus qualifying arts instruction for diverse federal grants and other support.

The challenge is that although there are 10 core subjects, NCLB currently requires schools to report student achievement test results for only reading and mathematics, and that all students meet state-determined standards in these subjects by the year 2014. Because of the amount of change schools must see in student achievement, there are many reports of decreasing instruction time for the arts.

Interestingly, while the federal government asserts that the arts are a core academic subject, it does not require that states and/or school districts offer programming. Most states have an arts education mandate, but school districts are usually left to oversee the implementation and funding of such programs.

Obama and the Arts

As the author of two best-selling books – Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama has been said to have a unique appreciation of the role and value of creative expression. In fact, part of his presidential platform including a revamping and reinvigoration of the arts.

To support greater arts education, Obama has said that he will:

  • Expand public and private partnerships between schools and arts organizations by increasing resources for the departments that develop these relationships – the U.S. Department of Education’s Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants.
  • Create an “Artists Corps” of young artists trained to work in low-income schools and their communities.
  • As president, he will set the example in the White House to promote the importance of arts and arts education in America.
  • Increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, which has seen a $50 million slash in government funding in the past 15 years.
  • Promote cultural diplomacy through artistic ambassadors (American artists, performers and thinkers) who can represent our values and ideals, and inspire people both stateside and all over the world.
  • Welcome members of the foreign arts community to America by streamlining the visa process. The hope is to return America to its rightful place as a top destination for artists and art students.

Is a Secretary of the Arts in the future of Obama’s cabinet?

During an interview in November of 2008, music producer and songwriter Quincy Jones mentioned that he thought Obama should create a Cabinet-level position of Secretary of the Arts. The comment sparked a support movement that has resulted in an online petition that to date has been signed by more than 230,000.

Arts advocates have proven statistically for years that every dollar spent by the National Endowment for the Arts returns a multiple of that dollar to state and local economies.

A 2007 report by Americans for the Arts found that arts generate $166.2 billion in annual fiscal activity: $63.1 billion in jobs and $103.1 billion in consumer spending. This translates into 5.7 million jobs, $7.9 billion in local tax revenues, $9.1 billion in state tax revenues and $12.6 billion in federal tax revenues. At a time when our economy is suffering, maybe a Secretary of the Arts wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Americans for the Arts
New York Times
New Horizons for Learning