Arts advocates mobilize to fight proposed L.A. Unified budget cuts
A proposal to slash arts teachers from elementary schools in the L.A. Unified School District has stoked community anger and fomented a grass-roots movement to fight the cuts.
Facing a budgetary shortfall of nearly $470 million in the upcoming 2010-11 school year, LAUSD is considering reductions across the board that include cutting 50% of the district's arts specialists who teach a specific cultural subject, like music or dance, in elementary schools.
The move would result in an estimated savings of $14.9 million for the 2010-11 year.
The proposal recommends eliminating the remaining arts specialists in the following school year, resulting in savings of another $14.9 million.
The figures come from a December budget proposal from the district titled "Fiscal Stabilization Plans" that has been circulating on the Internet. The LAUSD board is said to be seriously considering the proposal, though it will probably review others like it before making a decision in late May or June.
Currently, the LAUSD provides a music teacher to elementary schools for at least one day per week for the entire year, according to the document. It also provides instruction in dance, theater or the visual arts on a regular basis.
There are an estimated 350 of these specialized arts instructors teaching in LAUSD elementary schools, said Arts for L.A., a local advocacy group.
Arts for L.A. is leading a grass-roots effort to halt the proposed cuts. The group is organizing a letter-writing campaign in which they hope to send 700 letters to LAUSD board members. It is also seeking the support of major L.A. museums and performing arts institutions to adopt a resolution to send to the board.
"We understand the enormity of the budgetary situation but the arts is important to a complete education. In order for our students to compete in the workforce, they need arts education," said Danielle Brazell, executive director of the group.
"Any time you have a core program and take it apart, the chances are slim that it will come back."
The LAUSD has been gradually whittling away its arts education programs. In late 2008, the board suspended the Arts Community Partnership Network, which brought professional arts groups into the schools to collaborate on instruction.
An online petition organized by LAUSD elementary arts teachers was launched in November to protest the most recent round of proposed cuts. The petition has so far accumulated more than 1,500 signatures.
-- David Ng
Credit: Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images