Brewer: Some arts funding set for improvements at co-located schools

The $23 million set aside in next year’s city budget for arts education got another dose of attention Monday.

Standing outside of City Hall, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said she had heard from Chancellor Carmen Fariña that some of that additional funding would go toward improving arts facilities and providing more materials for co-located schools, which a Department of Education spokeswoman did not dispute. But Fariña and Mayor Bill de Blasio will have to balance the interests of competing advocates as they decide how to allocate that money.

Earlier this month, education advocates asked Fariña to subsidize the salaries of new arts teachers and to cover the costs of more partnerships between cultural organizations, schools, and teacher training programs. Meanwhile, Tony Bennett and his wife argued in the Daily News for the money to be spent solely on art teachers for in-school instruction, saying it is more important to embed the arts in school culture than to expand out-of-school arts instruction.

On Monday, Brewer called for the city to improve how it evaluates what schools offer arts programs, and released her own report showing that dozens of Manhattan schools do not have an arts teacher or partnerships with cultural organizations.

“There are many wonderful partnerships that people don’t know about, or there are instances where there aren’t any partnerships, and there need to be,” Brewer said.

She said her report corrects the Department of Education report that tracks the city’s art education programs annually, which she suggested should be revised because some schools said they had been incorrectly reported as not having arts programs.

The report also goes a step further than an analysis by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, she said, because her staff was able to dig more deeply into evaluations of schools’ programs. Stringer’s report said that one in every five city schools does not have even a part-time arts teacher, and that the gaps are greatest in schools with poor students.

“We are grateful for Borough President Brewer’s support as we work to provide an arts education to every student,” Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said in an email.

In addition to redesigning how the city evaluates arts education, Brewer also voiced support for more partnerships with arts institutions to certify art teachers and work with students, and said she would host meetings for principals and arts organizations to connect.

Brewer gave $10,000 in grants to both M.S. 328 and M.S. 332 to start in-school art programs designed to target English language learners and special education students.

M.S. 328 Assistant Principal James Cole said the funding will help the school expand a partnership, launched this year, which brought an arts organization into seventh grade social studies classrooms.

“The strength of the arts integration program is that when arts teachers and subject area teachers work side by side,” Cole said.