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NYC Arts Programs Lose Federal Funding

HOST INTRO SAINT: New York City public schools are about to lose 40 million dollars in arts funding this June. Yesterday, students and advocates held a press conference, calling on the Mayor and City Council to find solutions… and fast. 

HOST INTRO MACAYA: While a lot of people have made pleas for the importance of arts education for students…this could be equally harmful for public school teachers. 

Kimberly Olsen is the Executive Director of NYC Arts in Education Roundtable. She says protecting art teachers means amending state laws. 


Before we begin, could you tell us when arts programs started receiving federal aid? And until now, how has the funding helped? 


When the COVID 19 pandemic hit back in 2020, our city put 75 million of federal stimulus money to support students. This ended up leading to partnerships with arts and cultural organizations. It supported teacher professional development to meet the needs of our students. And we were so thrilled that that funding continued. However, that funding is set to end on June 30th, which is going to impact schools across New York City. 


The loss of funding clearly puts the education of students at risk. But what does this mean for certified arts teachers? 


Over the past three years, we've We have experienced a loss of full time certified arts teachers across the city to put those numbers in perspective in the 2019 2020 school year to the 2022 2023 school year, our city lost 425 full time certified arts teachers that is 14.8 percent of all certified arts teachers across the city. So that loss of those teachers impacts tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of students across the city. In a space where that might have been the only arts teacher serving their school. We know many arts teachers were possibly teaching theater or dance pre-pandemic, but all of a sudden found themselves teaching second grade, teaching math, teaching social studies as a way to sort of meet social distancing requirements at the time. This means less arts programming for our students. It means our teachers may be getting less professional development. It means that our teachers could be potentially stretched even more thin than what they currently are.


How are teachers responding?


Unfortunately, If you look at GoFundMe and you type in arts education New York City, you'll see way more GoFundMes than you would ever wish to see. It should not be these teachers or even students taking on the labor of making sure that they have funding to support arts education programming in their schools. And  ultimately, it should not be up to the PTA of the school to make sure that a school's able to keep their arts teacher or able to make sure that the school musical happens. Because ultimately, that leads to greater inequity across our system. Arts education and access to it shouldn't be dependent on the zip code that you live in. We are working with teachers across the city to be able to get a sign on letter that we send over to the mayor, to be able to make some noise about the importance of these programs right now and bring visibility to it. Because arts education isn't a nice to have, it is a must have. 


So, how does the city plan to make up for this funding gap? Can they follow any procedures from other cities that are managing this successfully? 


The state of California passed a pretty exciting bill this past year, which essentially provides a guaranteed funding stream for arts and music in their schools. It will amount to tens of millions of dollars, if not more, that are going to go directly to schools that they are able to have that foundation for arts and music across the entire state. Say another model that I can point to as well is in New Jersey. New Jersey was the first state to have 100 percent access to arts education for all of their students. That is huge. But one of the ways that they were able to get there is through partnership between their city school system or their state school system and their state's council on the art in addition to transparency so that folks understood that what gets measured gets done at the end of the day.


But how is New York state law different from states like California and New Jersey?


So these are states that have already codified arts and music a part of their core curriculum, um, in line with the federal every student succeeds act. I will say New York, unfortunately, is behind the times in adopting that as part of our state and that's also been part of the roundtables advocacy that we've been working over the past several years to codify arts and music as a part of education law. Our current law on the books is from the [00:04:00] 1950s. A lot has changed since then. It is time that we sort of get with the times within the state and also just catch up to the rest of the country, and especially up to the rest of the Northeast region. Once again, that was Kimberly Olson, Executive Director from NYC Arts and Education Roundtable.


Kimberly, thank you so much for joining us. 


Thanks so much.


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