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Arts organizations unite to press candidates on arts in schools

Lately, mayoral candidates have been quick to share their positions on “community schools” and merit pay. But they have so far stayed pretty quiet about the role of arts in schools.

A coalition of dozens of arts advocacy organizations is hoping to get them talking. Today, the groups called on the candidates to complete a questionnaire about their plans to support arts education.

Under the Bloomberg administration, the arts have not been a top priority. Schools got a new “blueprint” for arts instruction from the Department of Education, but budget cuts have meant that schools have had to turn to outside partnerships to help them offer arts programs, and many students still do not spend as much time in arts classes as state regulations require.

Like many advocates, supporters of arts education see the arrival of a new mayor as a chance for change.

“We look forward to seeing what the next generation of leadership in this city has to say about arts in our schools,” said Eric Pryor, executive director of the Center for Arts Education. “The arts are essential to a well-rounded education that develops creativity, innovation and other critical 21st century skills. This is a huge priority for hundreds of thousands of parents.”

The questionnaire asks candidates to explain how they would “broaden the school-day curriculum” to include more arts instruction and how their plans to overhaul the Department of Education’s organizational structure would affect the arts. It also asks them how they plan to give all schools equitable funding, space, and instructors for arts programs. And, after pressing Chancellor Dennis Walcott to attach higher stakes to arts instruction last year, the organizations want to know how the next mayor would factor the arts into his or her school accountability metrics.

Candidates for public advocate, comptroller, and borough presidents, in addition to mayor, are being asked to complete the survey — and submit a video, if they want — by the end of the month. They can also share a personal story: The questionnaire asks respondents about their own experiences with the arts, both in school and elsewhere in their lives.

The complete questionnaire is below.

2013 Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire
New York City

The following questions are designed to determine candidates’ positions on a number of issues related to the delivery of arts education (including music, dance, theater and visual arts) in New York City public schools. Questionnaires are being delivered to all certified candidates for the Office of New York City Mayor. Responses will be posted on participating organizations’ websites and provided to constituents, the public and press. Your participation is greatly appreciated.

Candidate Name: _____________________________________________________________________

Signature of Candidate: ______________________________________ Date: ____________________

Candidate Questions:

  1. What meaningful experiences, if any, with the arts, either in school or otherwise, did you have in your life and what did you gain from these experiences?
  2. It is widely acknowledged that access to a well-rounded curriculum is a key component of a quality education. However, numerous studies show that over the past decade disciplines such as art, science, and social studies are getting crowded out of the school day. In New York City, for instance, only half of all elementary schools are providing the arts instruction that is outlined in state education law. What strategies do you envision for broadening the school-day curriculum?
  3. How, if at all, would you restructure the current system of school governance? How might this impact the delivery of arts instruction in city schools?
  4. The arts are recognized as a core subject area here in New York and at the federal level. However, while many schools in New York City do provide quality arts instruction, access to this instruction is far from universal. How would you ensure equity in the delivery of arts education in the following key areas:
  5. Funding: Principals consistently cite budget constraints as the chief obstacle to providing arts education at their schools. While schools receive “Supplemental Arts Funding” each year (formerly known as Project Arts), as of 2007 principals are not required to spend these funds directly on arts education. What would you do to ensure that every school in the city has the resources to provide every student with a quality education that includes the arts?
  6. Qualified Instructors: Highly qualified certified arts teachers are the cornerstone of a quality arts program in schools. However, whether due to budget constraints, school size, or other factors, almost 20% of city schools have no certified arts instructor on staff. How could the city ensure that all of our public school students receive instruction from qualified instructors?
  7. Space: Lack of available in-school arts space is one of the top challenges principals face in implementing arts education. What policies would you implement to prevent the loss of arts spaces in public schools due to overcrowding, co-location, or other factors?
  8. Partnerships: New York City has a rich array of cultural resources, including arts and cultural institutions and professional artists that play an important role in the lives and education of some of our school children. How would you ensure that all public school students and their families could enjoy meaningful engagement with these resources?
  9. The city’s accountability system places a heavy emphasis on student performance on state assessments in English language arts and math. Currently, performance assessments for the arts are being piloted in city schools and while the arts can potentially factor into a high school’s report card grade, the overall impact is minimal. Are there ways you would consider expanding or revising the school accountability system to incorporate the arts?
  10. How would you engage teachers, parents, the arts and cultural community, city agencies, and other interested stakeholders to expand access to arts education both in-school and outside of the school day?

Additional Comments:

***Please feel free to supplement your answers to this questionnaire with a brief (less than three minutes) video response from you that highlights your thoughts, ideas, attitude or position toward arts in education. Along with responses to the written questionnaire these videos will be made publicly available***

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