Mayor Bill de Blasio announced recently that the city would spend an additional $23 million on arts education this fiscal year, much of which will go towards hiring certified arts teachers. In the end, though, that funding leads to 120 new teachers, when there are 419 schools citywide that lack a full-time certified arts teacher.
With education for all being one of Mayor de Blasio’s biggest platforms — universal pre-K was one of his biggest selling points on his campaign — how can he accept non-compliance as a city norm?
While $23 million is certainly a step in the right direction, the fight for quality arts education for all students must continue. Studies have shown that students, in particular at-risk students, who have access to the arts in and out of school tend to perform better in school, have better work opportunities and are more civically engaged.
This becomes particularly troubling when we look at the schools that are suffering most from a lack of arts funding. Neighborhoods in South Bronx and Central Brooklyn — where, it can be argued, arts education is needed most — have the highest percentage of schools without certified arts teachers or designated arts rooms.
A zip code should never define the quality of a child’s education. What good does universal pre-K do if those students then go on to enter into school systems that are lacking in basic areas like the arts?
Problems abound in New York City, and there are always more issues than there is funding to address them. But Mayor de Blasio is known for believing in the investment in our children as an investment in the future. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and give all of the city’s children the opportunity to know the joy of playing, singing, dancing and creating.