Take a stand for arts education

Published 5:29 pm Wednesday, September 7, 2016

To the Editor:

As students begin their school year, it is important for us to remember the impact of arts education in our homes, schools and communities. Research has shown that when students participate in the arts as a part of their education, they go on succeed in school, work and life.

Designated by Congress in 2010, the week beginning with the second Sunday in September is National Arts in Education Week, a national celebration of the transformative power of the arts in education.

Recently, in Washington, D.C., the new Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law, replacing no Child Left Behind. This new bill fully supports the arts as part of every student’s well-rounded education. It provides the flexibility for students to learn creatively and for local districts and states to create schools that embrace the arts.

It’s simple: Students attend school more often when they have access to the arts, parents and families engage with the schools when schools embrace the arts, dropout rates decrease, grades increase and the halls are filled with artwork, songs, drama and dancing.

According to a public opinion poll released in March, nine out of 10 Americans believe the arts are essential to a student’s well-rounded education.

However, we often see that access is not there. In that same public opinion poll, 67 percent of Americans said there was not sufficient access to the arts for their students to reap the benefits.

Additionally, study after study show the opportunity gap in arts education, specifically along racial and socio-economic lines. We must stand together to fight for equity in access and delivery of arts education.

As we celebrate National Arts in Education Week, we should pause to cheer for our accomplishments, but we should also remember the work we have to do.

How can we help provide equitable opportunities for all of our young people? How can we use the new law to create arts-rich schools? How can we support parents, families and the community in providing more opportunities for engagement?

It’s up to us — the arts education community — to take a stand and lead.

Helena Mulligan