Arts programs in schools provide creative outlets that can make or break a student’s educational experience, but many Phoenix public school teachers feel they often end up with school board leftovers. to fund their artistic departments. The Arizona Department of Education allocates resources to academic categories based on annual budgets that assess the financial needs of each school. With constant underfunding, the question arises: why should local governments invest more in arts education, and how can they remedy the apparent neglect that public arts programs face?
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School districts often prioritize alternative academics like STEM courses by providing funds for technology and sports teams by purchasing sports equipment. Although these are important subjects, their funding only helps students to excel directly in these courses. But a foundation in creative practices can be applied to an even larger context. Research suggests that involvement in the arts can have a positive impact on student performance in all areas of schoolwork.
A study from the Arts Education Partnership shows how different arts, such as music and painting, help stimulate cognitive functions for academic performance. Research identifies improvements in math skills, reading skills, scientific reasoning, and content organization, resulting in increased SAT scores and material comprehension.
These benefits are echoed by Scott Krenytzky, an arts specialist for five Mesa public schools, who has worked as an arts educator for 12 years and currently teaches hundreds of students in 36 visual arts classes. He shared his perspective on why access to the arts in public schools is particularly vital for children during their formative preschool education.
“The focus is on teaching skills that they can use beyond my classroom,” Krenytzky said. “We are always discussing the artistic elements, but those elements are secondary to building confidence and self-esteem in these young children,” he said. “We do a lot of cool things, but it’s basically about enjoying the process of coming to school, trying hard and doing your best. “
Krenytzky’s experience explains that arts education provides students with a safe space to explore their own intuitions and ideas, which serves as the foundation for their long-term progress as learners. The growth that comes from arts education is valuable to students, but with that value comes the financial cost of achieving it.
The amount of money given to support the arts in Phoenix Public Schools is determined by the number of students enrolled in existing programs, but those numbers are affected by the money the school board has available to maintain the program, the equipment and instructor salaries. Anabel Olguin, a performing arts teacher at Maryvale High School, said common difficulties resulted.
“Having more art teachers means more students can enroll in art classes, and therefore funding increases. However, if schools do not have enough money to hire art teachers, then there will be fewer opportunities for students to get involved in the arts, which will result in less funding ”, Olguin said.
This model creates a cycle in which schools can get stuck when trying to expand the arts education they offer. “Ultimately, adequate funding is needed so that schools can even provide arts-related opportunities to their students,” Olguin said.
Today, Phoenix public schools are experiencing a new cause of lack of funding for arts education. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the school board to provide distance learning resources to students who would otherwise not have access to computers for Zoom and online homework. This has required a reallocation of funds by the Arizona Department of Education, further endangering arts programs as they tend to be first on the chopping block.
“The money used to ensure that every student can access a computer and the Internet has not come out of nowhere. In many cases, the money came from departments such as the arts, ”Olguin said. “I hope these setbacks don’t have a lasting negative impact on something as important to students as the arts,” she said.