New York

Arts organizations unite to press candidates on arts in schools

Dozens of arts organizations are teaming up to press mayoral candidates to explains their plans for arts education in city schools.
Dozens of organizations are teaming up to press mayoral candidates to explains their plans for arts education.

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:
    1. 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?
    2. 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?
    3. 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?
    4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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***


Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.