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Why Is Funding For The Arts Important

Sarina Starling, Staff Writer

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In the past year alone, 132 counties in Georgia have been awarded with multiple Partner Grants for the arts that spanned over $1 million in funding, including but not limited to, dance, theatre, creative writing, and visual arts. 46% of these grants were awarded to Fulton, a neighboring county of Forsyth. Considering that grants count for roughly $7,575.75 within every school budget in the county, it is urgent that we as a county apply for a Partner Grant, despite being the richest county in Georgia with a $444 million dollar total school budget, which was flipped to an increased fund balance of $1,655,784.

According to the Arts Education In Georgia Research Report, Georgia high school principals who responded to the arts education survey identified three primary and two secondary obstacles to arts education — budget constraints (77%), competing priorities (65%), insufficient space or facilities (26%), time in the school day (24%), and insufficient personnel (19%). Furthermore, Georgia high schools spend what little arts education funds that they receive on art supplies and equipment (67%), arts field trips (67%), arts instructor professional development (49%), release time or collaborative learning time (30%), arts assemblies (26%), and hiring professional artists or touring companies (12%).

Although some may view the arts as an unnecessary investment in the school budget, extensive research found in the Arts Education In Georgia Research Report has concluded that art classes and extracurricular programs pertaining to art contribute an increase in graduation rates, especially when it comes to schools that offer creative writing classes (79.9%) compared to schools that do not offer creative writing classes (72.9%). This notion can also be applied to both SAT and ACT scores. Georgia high schools that offer visual art, music, theatre, dance, and/or creative writing classes have, on average, higher SAT scores than schools that do not offer arts classes. The association between art classes and higher SAT scores is especially strong among the schools that offer creative writing classes, but it is at least moderately strong among schools offering theatre, dance, and visual arts. Similarly, Georgia high schools that offer theatre classes, dance classes, and/or creative writing classes have, on average, higher scores than schools that do not offer classes in those disciplines. The association is especially strong across all ACT subject areas for creative writing, and across English, Reading, and Science for theatre.

Besides the academic benefits that involvement in the arts provides, The Arts Learning Task Force has observed and recorded that arts learning improves school engagement and attendance, improves literacy and provides benefits for English Language Learners and low-income students, positively impacts the brain development of students, improving learning in both arts subject areas and non-arts subject areas, and improves college and career readiness. Involvement in the arts builds upon abilities such as innovation, creativity, and critical thinking — skills that are currently desired by employers.

The Funding for Arts Education In Georgia Proposal states that the current source of arts education funding in Georgia’s public schools is formed from a combination of these twelve sources in order of importance: 1. District school budget; 2. Arts fund raisers; 3. School budget; 4. PTA/PTO; 5. Individual contributions; 6. In-kind donations; 7. Other grants; 8. Foundations; 9. Businesses; 10. Local arts councils; 11. State arts agency grants; 12. Other. There are also a variety of alternative sources used in other states, which includes special taxes and fees (10 states), income tax checkoffs (5 states), license plates (13 states), and cultural trusts (18 states).

Students that I have spoken to tend to agree that the arts deserve more funding. Brianna Noto, a senior here, says that, “I enjoy painting and poetry and I use art [poetry specifically] as an outlet to calm down.” She continues, stating that, “The arts deserves just as much funding as the sports do. The sports have a lot of attention, but the arts deserve just as much attention.” Her solutions? “Arts should be more on the announcements, we should have galleries for students who do photography and painting and visual arts because the arts and everything else that aren’t sports get pushed to the side.” In order to get the greatest range of answers, I also asked a junior and a sophomore about what they feel about the arts and the impact it has on our fellow students. Patience McKendrick, a sophomore, says that, “The only thing I look forward to is art class and every day I go to school and wait for rehearsal to start.” She believes that, “It [the arts] really helps with self confidence and it gives people the opportunity to express themselves in a way they can’t do anywhere else.” She thinks that the funding for the arts and sports should be divided equally, however, she states that, “Theatre and the arts in general are more expensive than sports tend to be.”, which could pose a problem for future funding endeavours for the arts. She says that the gap between arts and sports can be bridged “By [kids] supporting each other. Kids in the arts should go to games, and athletes should go to shows.” Parker L, a junior, says that, “Acting taught me how to be more confident and the arts are important because it helps kids gain more confidence.” Interestingly enough, Parker told me that, in his opinion, “Both [arts and sports] are team-oriented. Sports use more teamwork, if one person on the team fails, they all fail. Sports teach you discipline in a way and dedication to your craft. The arts teach you how to be more creative.”  In contrast with Patience’s and Brianna’s responses, however, Parker thinks that, “They [arts/sports] can be equally divided and they shouldn’t be.” Nevertheless, he proposed that, “Sports and arts could work around time with each other when it comes to the scheduling.”

After receiving multiple students’ perspectives on the issue of arts funding, and whether there is a lack of it, I have concluded that we need arts more so now than ever before. Future companies, generations of students, and even educators could be at risk for cutting arts from the budgeting, because it affects everything from students’ happiness and grades to graduation rates and ACT/SAT scores. If we as a country and even as a global community wish to increase our economic success and the success rate of education in schools throughout the world, then we must continue to fund our arts, because the arts function as a gateway to perhaps the most globally impacting ideas that humanity can only dream to accomplish during its’ lifespan. 

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