No Art Left Behind

New campaign fights for the arts in Texas schools

No Art Left Behind
Illustration By Robert Faires

Tired of arts education being treated like a redheaded stepchild in Texas public schools? You might want to consider getting on board with a new movement to take the issue to state legislators. Log on to www.goarts.org, and in less time than it takes to say, "Senator, if I could just have a moment of your time," you can add your name to a petition urging the Lege to reconsider the recent movement toward a narrow curriculum of "basic" subjects and restore a broader and more well-rounded curriculum in which the arts play a vital role.

The petition is just one component of a larger campaign launched by the Texas Coalition for Quality Arts Education, Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Music Project, Texas Educational Theatre Association, and Texas Dance Educators Association to explain to folks in as clear and compelling a manner as possible why the arts matter. A brochure titled "What Every Parent, Administrator, and School Board Member Should Know" lays out the importance of music, art, theatre, and dance for those with a direct stake in a kid's education, and, once they're fired up by the message, an Arts Advocacy CD – complete with PowerPoint presentation – provides them with the tools to spread the word to politicians or anyone else they want to enlist in the campaign. And the groups have marked Feb. 28, 2005, as the day all arts education advocates in Texas should descend on the state Capitol and make sure the legislators know there's a constituency for this issue, and, by Mirabeau B. Lamar, it's organized.

No doubt some readers are scoffing at the idea that the Lege will pay any attention at all to arts educators, especially with the school finance boogybear still stalking the Capitol halls, but the fact is they already have. This past session, the arts ed coalition finally succeeded in winning passage of Senate Bill 815, which mandates that all Texas school districts must use the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills in delivering instruction in not only the so-called foundation subjects of English, math, social studies, and science but also in all the enrichment subjects, which include the arts. That requires schools now to meet specific standards in providing arts education and brings Texas in line with federal law, which classifies the arts as a core academic subject.

Of course, that victory, important as it was, did nothing to beef up funding for school arts programs, many of which have been slashed within an inch of their lives or even killed. That brings us back to the petition, which implores legislators "to provide dollars to both restore and fund fine arts programs in our schools throughout the state" and "to provide full funding for Proclamation 2002, which includes new fine arts textbooks and materials." For more information, visit www.txarts.net/tcqae. end story

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

arts education, Texas public schools, Texas Coalition for Quality Arts Education, Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Music Project, Texas Educational Theatre Association, Texas Dance Educators Association, Senate Bill 815, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, TEKS, Arts Education Day at the Capitol

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