So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Portrait in numbers of LAUSD's decline in arts education

Graffiti Artist

Grant Slater/KPCC

L.A. plans to unveil a major initiative to save public arts education. Meanwhile, L.A. Unified's school board is looking at a measure that would make arts a "core subject."

In the last three years, Los Angeles Unified has had to cut nearly $1.5 billion from its annual operating budget, which is now roughly $6 billion. "Arts education is one of the most impacted components of LAUSD instruction as a result," according to the district.

I'm still working on getting specific breakdowns on arts education funding from L.A. Unified, but in the meantime, here are some numbers the district had handy.

In 2008, L.A. Unified employed 345 art specialist teachers — the district called that year its "peak." Now there are 204 art specialist teachers for more than 580,000 students (not including those in charters).

That breaks down to about one art specialist for every 2,800 students. The district says that teachers travel from school to school to fill gaps.

Since 2008, the district has cut arts education at elementary schools by 40%.

  • The district says 53% of more than 272,000 students in kindergarten through fifth grade will not receive any arts instruction in elementary school.
  • About 75% of about 129,000 students in the sixth through eighth grades will not receive any arts instruction in middle school. The district adds that "most middle schools have no art teacher (primarily due to budget cuts)."
  • About half the district's more than 180,000 high school students will not receive any arts instruction in high school. 


LAUSD considers making arts education a 'core subject'

Mercer 1686

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

LA Unified's school board is considering a measure that would make arts education a 'core subject.'

The L.A. Unified school board will vote on a measure Tuesday that would make arts education a "core subject," prohibit further cuts to the arts, and ultimately restore some money to arts programs. 

The measure, sponsored by board member Nury Martinez, would require Superintendent John Deasy to return to the board by July 1 with a plan on implementing "Arts at the Core" that includes funding strategies, ways to collect data to measure student learning through the arts, professional development for instructors, and benchmarks for success.

Arts education has found itself on the chopping block during district budget discussions as state support for it has declined in the last several years.

This measure requires a restoration of arts education funds to 2007-8 funding levels within five years. Within 10 years it aims to increase the number of arts teachers to match similar urban school districts so that each middle school can offer at least three arts disciplines. 


East L.A. teens learn confidence through arts

Monterey Continuation HS theater

Theresa Chavez, Artistic Director About Productions

Rosalio Muñoz (center), who participated as an organizer in the 1970s Chicano Moratorium is interviewed by Monterey Continuation High School students. Visible from left to right: Jessie Serna, 17; Oscar Lechuga, 18; and Andrew Burciaga, 18.

Andrew Burciaga, 18, felt the pressure, and it was too much for him.

The East L.A. teen has two older sisters who both went to college: one to UC Irvine and the other to a Cal State. One even got a Masters degree afterward. But Burciaga, a Garfield High School student, said he was overwhelmed, got lazy, and "pretty much was just going to give up."

A school counselor recommended he head to Monterey Continuation High School in East L.A., and though he had some misgivings about it, he gave it a go. Only a couple months in, the senior hesitatingly joined a theater group on campus; he'd done improvisation before, but this time he would be conducting interviews and writing a play.

Burciaga and his fellow classmates spoke with four former participants of the 1970 Chicano Moratorium: organizer Rosalio Muñoz, visual artist Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin, film and television director Jesus Treviño and AFTRA director Consuelo Flores as part of About Productions' Young Theaterworks program, Through the Ages.