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Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited this music class at Manhattan's P.S. 51 on Monday.

Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited this music class at Manhattan’s P.S. 51 on Monday.

Alex Zimmerman

Number of art teachers in New York City schools hits 12-year high

The number of art teachers in New York City classrooms reached a 12-year high last academic year as schools devoted a larger share of their budgets to arts education, officials said Monday.

Last school year, city schools employed 2,770 full-time art teachers, 89 more than the previous year. Schools collectively spent $416 million on arts last year, a $17 million increase from the year before.

“The arts are not a frill, they’re not an add-on,” schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said Monday at Manhattan’s P.S. 51, where she visited a music class before releasing the education department’s annual Arts in Schools Report. “The reality is we need more arts not less arts.”

Fariña emphasized art education early in her tenure, responding in part to a 2014 comptroller report that found roughly 20 percent of city schools didn’t have even a part-time art teacher, leaving many schools out of compliance with state law.

Her emphasis on the arts has been part of a broader push — at least rhetorically — to get schools to invest more energy in developing well-rounded students, not just preparing students to pass the state’s annual math and English tests.

To that end, Mayor Bill de Blasio has allocated $23 million per year to arts education, which can be used to hire teachers and renovate art classrooms. The city has also expanded the number of schools — from 144 in 2014 to 343 last year — that receive grants for arts programs targeted to English learners and students with disabilities.

Asked how she measures the success of increased arts investment, Fariña said the offerings can help boost student attendance and parent involvement.

“Parents are much more likely to come to school to see a performance or a kid’s art show,” she said. “There’s a lot of family engagement that’s tied into the arts.”

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