Mayor De Blasio Gives $23 Million Boost to Arts Education in NYC

Mayor Bill de Blasio at Arts Education Press Announcement at the Bronx Museum of the Arts (July 1, 2014). Photo: Ed Reed, courtesy the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is responding to charges that New York city’s public schools are neglecting student’s arts education in a big way, funneling an additional $23 million into the program’s budget for 2015 and pledging to hire 120 new art teachers for the fall, reports the New York Daily News.

According to a report released by city comptroller Scott Stringer in April, there are currently no art teachers at 20 percent of New York’s public schools. This is a violation of state law, which requires middle school and high school students be provided with arts instruction. Of the schools without art teachers, over 42 percent are in the low-income neighborhoods of the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn.

Stringer’s report found that the cost of hiring a full-time, state-certified art teacher in every school that lacked one would have been roughly $26 million (about a tenth of the city’s total education spending), so the new budget will hit fairy close to the mark.

“For too long, we had under-invested in arts education and cultural education in our schools. And it was time to right that wrong and do something aggressive about it,” De Blasio said in an announcement made at the Bronx Museum of Arts, during which Stringer was present.

There was an 84 percent drop in spending on supplies and equipment for arts programs between 2006 and 2013 in the New York City public school system, thanks in part to the recession (arts budgets are generally among the first to be slashed during times of economic hardship) and a renewed focus on meeting accountability standards in subjects such as math and English.

“We’ve spent so much time over the last 10 years teaching to the test, and lost in the shuffle was arts teachers, arts curriculum and arts space,” Stringer told the New York Times in April.

Clearly, De Blasio is now doing his best to address the issue. The new influx of funds was approved last week as part of a new spending plan. The money will help pay for improving studio facilities, auditoriums, and dance floors, and will also be spent on art supplies for teachers.

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