The city will divide up an additional $23 million set aside for arts education to hire 120 new teachers, improve and create new facilities, and provide arts teachers with funds to purchase new supplies, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

Directing the additional funds, which will bring the city’s total arts spending to about $353 million, is the first step toward bringing the city’s public schools into compliance with state law, which requires all middle and high schools to have some form of arts education, de Blasio said.

“For too long, we had under-invested in arts education and cultural education in our schools,” de Blasio said. “And it was time to right that wrong and do something aggressive about it.”

De Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña said Monday that the money would be spent in a range of ways, following weeks of advocates pushing their own priorities. The department will spend $4.7 million to put 100 arts teachers in pairs of middle schools, $7.5 million to make improvements to facilities, and $1.4 million to expand partnerships with cultural organizations, officials said. The city will also set aside $1,000 for each full-time arts teacher to purchase supplies.

Schools will be able to apply for grants to hire new teachers or improve their arts facilities, and will be encouraged to work with nearby or co-located schools to apply together so that the funding can reach more schools, officials said.

“We’re also asking schools that are co-located to actually talk to each other,” Fariña said. “Because when we look at schools that may be in same building and aren’t getting along, the arts will bring them together.”

During his mayoral campaign, de Blasio vowed to add funding for the arts and set a goal that all students would receive state-mandated arts instruction within four years. All told, this year’s additional money is an approximately 7 percent increase over last year’s citywide arts spending.

The funding increase does not change the policy, put in place under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that cut a dedicated line for the arts from school budgets, allowing principals to redirect funds to offset budget cuts. The school system lost more than 200 certified arts teachers after that change, according to a report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Stringer, who stood next to de Blasio at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, praised the mayor for swiftly acting on his report, which he said showed “shocking disparities.” One in five city schools do not have a full-time, certified arts teacher, according to his analysis, and schools in the poorest areas of the city were least likely to offer arts education.

The M.S. 215 band played before Mayor Bill de Blasio announced how increased funding for arts education would be spent Tuesday.
The M.S. 215 band played before Mayor Bill de Blasio announced how increased funding for arts education would be spent Tuesday.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mary Ellen McIntire

Fariña said she believed adding arts programs will increase attendance, especially among middle school students who need something extra to capture their interests. Funding to improve auditoriums and dance floors, even when shared by schools, can help students have more opportunities to perform, she said, increasing students’ confidence.

“How many of you like going on the stage and showing off for people? Absolutely! Why not? So this is an important thing,” Fariña asked members of the M.S. 215 band who played at the announcement, noting that all of the school auditoriums in the city would get some “sprucing up.”

More than $350,000 will also go toward funding a partnership between the Lincoln Center and Hunter College of New York to train 20 new teachers as arts educators over the next three years. While completing the two-year training program, teachers will be able to apply for full-time teaching positions in city schools.

Eric Pryor, executive director of the Center for Arts Education, who has criticized the city’s arts education offerings in recent years, said he was heartened by the new push for partnerships.

“The announcement today shows that they believe in that and they’re investing in helping to broaden what our students receive, particularly our most vulnerable children,” Pryor said.