artistic vision

Number of art teachers in New York City schools hits 12-year high

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited this music class at Manhattan's P.S. 51 on Monday.

The number of art teachers in New York City classrooms reached a 12-year high last academic year as schools devoted a larger share of their budgets to arts education, officials said Monday.

Last school year, city schools employed 2,770 full-time art teachers, 89 more than the previous year. Schools collectively spent $416 million on arts last year, a $17 million increase from the year before.

“The arts are not a frill, they’re not an add-on,” schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said Monday at Manhattan’s P.S. 51, where she visited a music class before releasing the education department’s annual Arts in Schools Report. “The reality is we need more arts not less arts.”

Fariña emphasized art education early in her tenure, responding in part to a 2014 comptroller report that found roughly 20 percent of city schools didn’t have even a part-time art teacher, leaving many schools out of compliance with state law.

Her emphasis on the arts has been part of a broader push — at least rhetorically — to get schools to invest more energy in developing well-rounded students, not just preparing students to pass the state’s annual math and English tests.

To that end, Mayor Bill de Blasio has allocated $23 million per year to arts education, which can be used to hire teachers and renovate art classrooms. The city has also expanded the number of schools — from 144 in 2014 to 343 last year — that receive grants for arts programs targeted to English learners and students with disabilities.

Asked how she measures the success of increased arts investment, Fariña said the offerings can help boost student attendance and parent involvement.

“Parents are much more likely to come to school to see a performance or a kid’s art show,” she said. “There’s a lot of family engagement that’s tied into the arts.”

hot off the presses

A silver medal for Detroit pre-K. Now where are the kids?

PHOTO: Getty Images

Detroit has earned a silver rating, the second-highest possible, in a national ranking of urban preschool programs published Wednesday. But the report by the advocacy group CityHealth also says that too few eligible 4-year-olds are enrolled.

CityHealth, a foundation-funded organization that rates America’s largest urban centers based on their public policies, looked at how big cities stack up in offering preschool programs in a report published Wednesday.

Researchers at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University conducted the study and compiled the report.

Following standards set by the largest state-funded pre-K organization, the Great Start Readiness Program, Detroit requires teachers in state preschool to have at least a bachelor’s degree, limits class sizes, and requires health screenings of children.

Those are some of the hallmarks of a high-quality program, according to CityHealth.

Only eight of the 40 cities whose policies were reviewed earned a silver rating, and only five earned the top gold rating. A handful of cities — Indianapolis and Phoenix, Arizona, among them — were far behind, with low enrollment and few or none of CityHealth’s model policies in place.

Still, the gap in Detroit’s pre-K system is a big one. The city has far fewer pre-K seats than it reportedly needs. That’s the case in many of America’s largest cities, according to CityHealth. In nearly half of the cities studied, pre-K programs reached less than one-third of the cities’ pre-schoolers.

The lack of preschool slots is one reason advocates from Michigan’s largest cities are pushing lawmakers to put early childhood on the agenda in Lansing. And it’s part of why Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has gotten behind the idea of a expanded pre-K system for Detroit.

Read the full report here:

School Funding 101

Report: Michigan has biggest school funding decline in nation

How’s this for a grim school funding statistic: A new report out Wednesday says total revenue for Michigan schools declined 30 percent from 2002 to 2015 — the largest decline for any state over the past quarter century.

The statistic, adjusted for inflation, is among findings of a report by researchers at Michigan State University that reviews school funding and recommends how the state can improve.

“Michigan has tried to improve schools on the cheap, focusing on more accountability and school choice,” wrote David Arsen, lead author and professor of education policy. “To make those policies effective, they have to be matched with adequate funding. We have been kidding ourselves to think we can move forward while cutting funding for schools.”

Co-authors are Tanner Delpier and Jesse Nagel, MSU doctoral students.

Here are a few of the highlights in the report — which is aimed at spurring public discussion of how to improve school funding in the state. The data were adjusted for inflation:

  • Dead last: Where Michigan ranks in total education revenue growth since the mid-90s, when the state’s current school funding formula was developed.
  • 60 percent: How much funding for at-risk students has declined since 2001.
  • 22 percent: How much per-pupil revenue declined from 2002 to 2015.

 The report comes about a year after the bipartisan School Finance Research Collaborative released a comprehensive set of recommendations for fixing the school funding system in Michigan. The MSU report provides a review of that report and adopts many of its recommendations.

It also comes after a December lame-duck legislative session in Michigan that ended with lawmakers voting to shift some funding from the state School Aid Fund to other priorities, such as road repairs and environmental cleanups.

Officials from the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education, a group that represents educators in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, said the MSU report should be a wake-up call for lawmakers. They said it confirms that Michigan’s K-12 funding is in crisis.

“Lawmakers need to stop hiding behind talking points that claim they are investing in our schools when the reality is our funding hasn’t even kept up with the rate of inflation, let alone the increased cost of the services we are being asked to provide our students,” said George Heitsch, president of the alliance and superintendent of Farmington Public Schools. “When you see the numbers from this report showing the drastic funding cuts that have been forced on our schools in recent years, it should be no wonder why our state ranks at the bottom in reading and math proficiency. This simply has to change because our students deserve better.”

Read the full report for more information and recommendations: