BY NEW YORK CITY COMPTROLLER SCOTT M. STRINGER
Earlier this month, I stood on the steps of the Staten Island Children’s Museum with Assemblymember Matthew Titone and dozens of schoolchildren to announce legislation to establish a task force dedicated to examining the state of arts and music education statewide. The bill is a crucial step toward ensuring every child — from Brooklyn to Buffalo — receives a quality arts education.
As the father of two young boys and a product of the city’s public schools, I have a deep commitment to ensuring that the public education system in the “Cultural Capital of the World” not only opens our students’ eyes to literature and science, but also provides meaningful opportunities for engagement with the arts.
Robust exposure to the arts deepens students’ understanding of the world and teaches some of the most important skills they’ll need to succeed. These include the ability to think creatively, work collaboratively and bring challenging projects to a successful conclusion, all tools that will help them compete in the 21st century marketplace.
While New York City is renowned worldwide for music, art, dance and theater, our city’s public schools have long struggled to provide vital arts programming to students.
My office’s “State of the Arts” report found that after years of crippling budget cuts, more than 400 city schools—28 percent—didn’t have a single, full-time certified arts teacher during school year 2012-13, including 125 in Brooklyn.
Furthermore, even though state law requires that students in grades 7-12 be taught by a certified arts teacher, 20 percent of our middle and high schools don’t have one.
In Central Brooklyn, one of our city’s low-income communities, 42 percent of schools had neither a full-time nor a part-time certified arts teacher. In addition, more than 25 percent of schools in Central Brooklyn lacked both a full-time teacher and a partnership with a cultural organization and 15 percent had no dedicated arts rooms.
Following the release of my report, I worked with Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito to help secure $23 million in new funding to expand arts education in our public schools.
Of this, $5 million will be allocated to hire 120 certified arts instructors in middle and high schools with low or substandard arts education. This investment will go a long way towards increasing students’ access to school-day arts instruction.
This was a critical first step in repairing damage done to arts education through years of budget cuts and rigid accountability measures, which deeply limited schools’ ability to provide students with meaningful arts programming.
Assemblymember Titone’s legislation is another important step towards that goal. The sooner we can pass this legislation, the better off all our children will be.
Scott M. Stringer is New York City comptroller.