Education

California legislative committee probes shortcomings in arts education

Lawmakers, school officials, community organizers and arts educators gathered in Beverly Hills Friday afternoon to talk about why schools aren't complying with state law requiring arts education. Sen. Ben Allen, chair of the Joint Committee on the Arts, convened the hearing.
Lawmakers, school officials, community organizers and arts educators gathered in Beverly Hills Friday afternoon to talk about why schools aren't complying with state law requiring arts education. Sen. Ben Allen, chair of the Joint Committee on the Arts, convened the hearing.
screengrab from CASenDems YouTube
Lawmakers, school officials, community organizers and arts educators gathered in Beverly Hills Friday afternoon to talk about why schools aren't complying with state law requiring arts education. Sen. Ben Allen, chair of the Joint Committee on the Arts, convened the hearing.
Lawmakers, school officials, community organizers and arts educators gathered in Beverly Hills Friday afternoon to talk about why schools aren't complying with state law requiring arts education.
Priska Neely
Lawmakers, school officials, community organizers and arts educators gathered in Beverly Hills Friday afternoon to talk about why schools aren't complying with state law requiring arts education. Sen. Ben Allen, chair of the Joint Committee on the Arts, convened the hearing.
Eliot Middle School students perform. The students are part of the school's arts expansion - this year Eliot added theater and dance classes.
Mary Plummer/KPCC


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Lawmakers, school officials, community organizers and arts educators gathered in Beverly Hills Friday afternoon to talk about why schools aren't complying with state law requiring arts education.

Sen. Ben Allen, chair of the Joint Committee on the Arts, convened the hearing. He told the room full of administrators, educators and advocates that he was kind of nerding out over the issue.
“I’m excited about this nexus of arts and law,” he said as the crowd chuckled. “I’m sure I’m one of the very few, but here we are.”

The hearing can be viewed below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HO-_-DF4JY&feature=youtu.be&t=33m17s

Allen said with the state's coffers growing post-recession, it’s an ideal time to discuss arts education funding.

“We know how much the arts have struggled in a lot of our school districts and now is a good time – now that there’s finally some more money coming back into the system – to have these conversations and work with our school districts to make sure that our students aren’t being short changed,” Allen said.
 
California’s education code mandates art instruction for first through 12th-graders.
As KPCC has reported, few schools live up to these requirements and many are not aware that they exist.
 
A FIRST STEP

The hearing included testimony from more than a dozen leaders in arts education, including Southern California arts educator Carl Schafer.

Schafer was introduced as a hero at the hearing. He testified about the years he’s spent on a mission to convince schools to make the arts a priority.
 
 “Persuasion has not worked and it will not work in the future,” Schafer said during the hearing. “The only solution is to require compliance to the education code.”
 
He wants lawmakers to add teeth to the law and said “it’s not done until there’s legislation introduced, passed and signed by the governor.”

Rory Pullens, head of arts education for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said awareness is key to the compliance with the law. Pullens championed the various arts initiatives in the nation’s second largest school district. He also admitted that the district has a long way to go.
 
“The challenges in providing access and equity in the arts could seem overwhelming, but we are artists,” said Pullens.
 
He hopes the artists and educators at Friday’s hearing can work together to ensure arts education for every California student.