Pablo Picasso once reportedly said that every child is an artist.
This unfortunate theme — the loss of creativity in the pursuit of knowledge, or, to put it another way, the denial of the legitimacy of music and arts education in the pursuit of ‘career preparation’ — is common in both storytelling and educational policy. It’s a known theme. Now there is another paradoxical version. Arts education is marginalized by local school districts’ use of state block grants aimed at arts education.
Recent news reported on the use of the Music and Arts Education Block Grant by the taxpayer-funded East Side Union High School District indicates that current education policy is focused on STEM and has been for decades. Not surprising given the continuing underfunding of education in California. Of the total grant of $13,267,936, 72% will be used for “administrative expenses,” according to the district’s finances.
About $1.5 million will be spent on music and art “tuition”. However, that money will be allocated to materials and professional development.
What is not clear in the budget presentation to the East Side Union High School District Board is how the allocated operating costs will be spent. The presentation will discuss the district’s system of focus on goals for equity, career readiness, graduation rates, English learner achievement, student behavioral responses, attendance, and engagement with homeless students. Perhaps nowhere does the presentation offer more specific guidance or insight into how taxpayer dollars are utilized to achieve the goals of the block grant title, an activity that actually teaches music and the arts. I have not.
The effect of this lack of grant allocation is a further underestimation of arts education by people who should know better. In fact, the benefits of continuous, rigorous art education provided to students during class is a clear goal of the California Arts Council and many other art education funders.
In fact, small and large arts education nonprofits seeking assistance with arts education can apply for a grant application to teach standards-based arts education in California public schools, including a sample standards-based curriculum and experience. specific other evidence of their sustainable capacity. It teaches music and visual arts and has active partnerships with schools.
Numerous reports of the tangible and intangible benefits of music and arts education are well documented. Among the many other resources available through Californians for the Arts are statistics showing the benefits of children’s brains in music education, arts curriculum resources provided by the California Arts Education Association and the California Department of Education, and arts education resources. There are data that reveal gaps. Underserved communities are experiencing, like the students in this district.
We can and should consider the evidence for the intangible benefits of arts education. It is clearly understood by legislators who have the power to cut funding for art when art making or learning threatens public perspective.
You can find evidence of this on YouTube. For example, a video of her 22 Elementary Public School in Staten Island performing “Don’t Give Up On Me.”
Or the many YouTube videos of San Jose music students, including rockout performances at the Mariachi Festival, the stunning ensemble artistry of San Jose’s Firebird Youth Orchestra, and numerous jazz concerts by the San Jose Jazz High School All Stars.
With all this evidence supporting increased funding for arts education time at the fingertips of district bureaucrats, why is spending on the operating expenses item a mystery? You may recall that the cultural acumen of the children and young people in the group is deep and evident in the natural musicality that children freely use to explore the sounds of music. Unique, purposeful, spontaneous, and impressively improvisational. It’s music of curiosity and fascination, as music educators at San Jose Jazz, the Mariachi Conference, and the Firebird Youth Orchestra will attest.
Why not use this baked-in motivation to learn and show the numbers? I can’t. In this case, would raiding the Arts Block Grant help the ESUHSD face the music?
Marcela Davison Avilés is Managing Partner of TomKat MeDiA and Founder of Chapultepec Group.