At the beginning of the month, Chance the Rapper donated $1 million dollars to Chicago Public Schools Foundation “for arts and enrichment programming.” Why private citizens need to donate to public schools so kids in Chicago can get a decent education is a discussion for another time, and really a question only Illinois Governor Rauner can answer. Lack of funding for arts education in public schools is an issue nationwide.
President Trump released his budget blueprint “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” Thursday. You may have seen the funny but sad video PBS put out this week explaining to Elmo that he is getting laid off — he’s getting laid off because President Trump’s budget proposes eliminating funding for Public Broadcasting Service, National Public Radio and the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). While the NEA does not directly fund arts in public schools, the NEA can give grants to school districts to help fund arts programs. President Trump is the first president to propose completely eliminating funding for the NEA.
I am one of the least artistic people I know. I honestly can barely draw stick figures, I took piano lessons for 11 years and I am still awful, I took a drama class in high school thinking it would be an easy elective, and it ended up being one of my hardest classes, and if you saw me in All-University Sing you would know that dancing is not my calling. Although I am not artistic, I still enjoy the arts and can recognize the benefits they offer.
A study done by the Arts Action Fund link in 2015 found that students who participate in an arts-rich education have higher GPAs, higher standardized test scores and significantly lower high school dropout rates. The Department of Education reports that access to arts education for low socioeconomic-status students, particularly students of color, is significantly lower than for predominately white school districts.
Yet, research shows that low socioeconomic-status students with arts education have even greater increases in academic performance, college acceptance rates, college grades and college graduation rates.
Funding for arts education in public schools should be increasing, not decreasing. The benefits are massive and the funding is already a minuscule percentage of the national budget. In comparison, the United States spends less than one-fortieth of what Germany spends on arts education per student. In 2013, the National Arts Index reported that funding for the arts made up 0.28 percent of the government’s nonmilitary budget.
I understand being in debt. I understand needing to make budget cuts. I don’t understand sacrificing the education of our children and therefore the future of our nation. Education is about so much more than memorizing facts and solving equations. Arts education teaches children to be creative, innovative thinkers. In my opinion, that is just as important as knowing the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. We need to invest in the education of our children, and arts education needs to be secured in public curriculums.