A goal of arts for all

Los Angeles County Arts Commission program is improving art education in Burbank, but funding from schools is dropping.

February 14, 2009|By Zain Shauk

For 18 years, the Burbank Unified School District did not provide music classes to its elementary school students.

Funding was short, and the district did not have a collective approach to arts education, said Peggy Flynn, the district’s visual and performing arts coordinator.

But after years of planning and searching for funds, elementary school students are singing and reading musical notes again, Flynn said. The shift was made possible by Arts for All, a Los Angeles County Arts Commission program to improve arts education in the county, she said.


Arts for All, which released a report Wednesday showing improvements in countywide arts instruction, was established in 2003 with the goal of advising school districts on making plans for broad arts programs that could be funded by internal and external resources, said Ayanna Higgins, director of arts education for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.

The program pays for coaches to guide districts toward making long-term plans for arts classes and helps educators connect with helpful grants, Higgins said.

Burbank Unified joined the program in 2004. The Glendale Unified School District became an Arts for All participant this year and held two meetings in January to start the process of developing a long-term plan for the arts, said Joan Shoff, the district’s visual and performing arts coordinator.

Although the report showed jumps in arts personnel countywide and more districts adopting arts-related policies, it also showed a drop in funding from school districts for the programs.

Just 3% of the county’s 81 school districts spent 5% or more of their general funds for arts education in 2008, down from 15% in 2005, according to the report.

Burbank Unified spent less than 2% of its general fund on arts programs, and Glendale Unified spent less than 5%, the report said.

The commission has attributed the sharp decrease to more accurate reporting from districts, Higgins said, adding that overall, 98% of the districts said they used some funds from their general budgets to support the arts.

But many districts are using state grants instead of money from their own budgets to support visual arts, music and performing arts classes, Higgins said.

With more districts relying on restricted state grants, known as categorical programs, to fund classes, recent gains in arts education could be wiped out if provisions included in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2009-10 budget proposal are approved.

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