Arts in Schools: Finding the Money

by Adelaide Kuehn | September 2, 2019 | 0 Comments
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A Responsibility of Each School Board

Back-to-school season coincides with National Arts in Education Week, which this year falls on September 8-14.

Arts Week

This is an important moment to think about how you can support arts education for every child in your local school and across the state.

Who Has Access to the Arts?

In California, arts education is a local responsibility. There is no significant state or federal program or piggybank to make it happen. It's up to each school board to determine how to prioritize the arts and how to budget for the necessary staff, space and equipment.

Access to arts education is not equitable in California K-12 public schools

Too many school boards have cut back on existing arts education programs because of the pressure of competing priorities. As a result, access to high-quality arts education is limited in California schools. The California Arts Education Data Project concludes that only 39% of CA students participate in the arts, and that access is significantly lower in low-income schools. This finding confirms what arts education advocates have long understood — that access to arts education is not equitable in California K-12 public schools. Students in low-income communities are half as likely to receive arts education as those in more affluent communities.

Why the Arts Matter

Student involvement in the arts is linked to higher academic performance, increased standardized test scores, greater involvement in community service and lower dropout rates.

And that’s just the beginning. The arts foster critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and innovation. They give students the skills they need to function successfully in the workforce.

Because the benefits of an arts education have such a profoundly positive impact on students, equitable access advances social and economic equity by helping all students to thrive and reach their full potential.

Arts Now!

The Arts Now Campaign—a program of the California Alliance for Arts Education—is a statewide network working to make the arts a core part of every child’s education.

Arts Now Objectives:


Support the development of district and county arts plans


Provide education about how districts can use arts strategies to improve outcomes for low income students through LCFF and the Title I program


Empower community members to advocate for arts education through Arts Now Communities


Promote student voices in school decision-making and arts education advocacy

California's system for funding schools, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), requires local school boards to address goals that include student engagement, parental involvement, school climate, student achievement and pupil outcomes. The arts speak directly to those outcomes.

Some school boards and counties are investing in arts education strategies in inspiring ways. By shining a light on these examples, the Arts Now Campaign encourages and supports other districts to do the same. Change is possible!

Examples in California

Something’s Happening in Chula Vista

Chula Vista School District sits at the border between Mexico and California. It is the second largest elementary school district in California, with a significant population of non-English speaking and low-income students. In 2015 their school board voted to invest $15 million over three years in arts education (about $160 annually per student) to enable every student in the district to receive arts education. The documentary “Something’s Happening in Chula Vista” provides a window into the impact of arts education in aspects of students’ lives that go beyond test scores—where they are learning the skills they will need in order to be successful in school and in life.

Seizing an Opportunity in Beaumont

The California Legislature established priorities for the use of $44 million in federal Title IV funding in the 2018-19 state budget. The priorities included Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grants, a program administered by the California Department of Education to help districts and counties expand visual and performing arts instruction. The grant program emerged from discussions of Senate Bill SB 933, which was authored by Senator Ben Allen and sponsored by the California Alliance for Arts Education.

Beaumont Unified School District, a district of about 10,000 students in central Riverside County, received a grant of $2,466,621 (about $240 per student) to support strategic arts planning, visual and performing arts professional development for teachers, elementary music materials, costumes, as well as computers, cameras, 3D printers, a soundboard and projection screen for media arts classrooms. Learn more about how this investment is affecting students here.

Arts Planning Guide

Momentum in Mono County

Mono Arts Council, along with the Mono County Office of Education and several other key stakeholders in the arts community, met over the course of a year to create the Mono County Strategic Arts Plan for Mono County Schools with support from the Arts Now Planning Initiative.

If you are looking to bring more arts education to your community, start by learning about the Arts Now Campaign.

Adelaide Kuehn is Program Director for the California Alliance for Arts Education, a statewide organization that advocates for arts education in California K-12 public schools. She oversees the Arts Now Campaign, which supports statewide partnerships and creates advocacy materials to support arts education. Adelaide began her work in the field of arts education as a gallery educator for school age audiences at the Hammer Museum. She completed her PhD in French and Francophone Studies at UCLA.

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