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Advocates ask city to help principals pay salaries for new art teachers

The city should subsidize the salaries of new arts teachers for up to three years to make sure schools are complying with state arts requirements, a coalition of education advocates says.

In a letter sent to Chancellor Carmen Fariña on Tuesday, the group outlined tips for how the Department of Education should spend an extra $23 million that’s likely to be allotted to the arts budget next year. Arts spending has fallen over the past decade amid shifting priorities, hovering at around $300 million in recent years.

The letter says some of the money should cover salaries to incentivize principals to comply with state arts mandates. The system lost more than 200 certified art teachers in the four years after a dedicated funding line for the arts was scrapped from school budgets, a policy that allowed principals to redirect funds elsewhere to offset several years of school-level cuts.

The funding increase came after a report by Comptroller Scott Stringer found that one in five city schools does not even have a part-time art teacher, despite state laws mandating arts instruction—and the gaps are greatest in schools with many poor students.

The letter also calls for schools to be held accountable if they fail to include “meaningful representation of arts education.” The Department of Education’s current arts accountability system is “ineffective,” Stringer’s report concluded.

“As practitioners and educators, we believe it is essential that this new funding be strategically focused on building strong and lasting school-day arts programming and that it be targeted to help expand access and equity citywide,” reads the letter, which was signed by 22 education and community leaders, including NYU Professor Pedro Noguera. The coalition is led by the Center for Arts Education.

Other priorities include partnerships with outside arts organizations and training for new teachers. The city has already addressed the coalition’s request to lift a hiring freeze on arts teachers.

The full letter is below:
[documentcloud id=1200751-coaliton-letter-to-chancellor-on-arts-funding]

 

Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:

 

The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.

 

In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news