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: