Arts in ASD Inspire Debate

In recent years, there has been a heated debate regarding the importance of arts in the Anchorage School District.

As the yearly budget becomes tighter and more limited, many school board members have started to question the need of an arts department in schools.

Over the last five years, Anchorages music, drama and art departments have seen substantial reductions of funding.

“School districts everywhere have cut funding in all aspects of education. Art and music education, however, has suffered most,” says Dimond High School art teacher Cullen Lickingteller.

When asked what has directly affected his teachings, he responded “Over the last eight years, I have seen the number of students in my class skyrocket. Now it seems there is not a personal educational experience between teachers and students. There are simply too many students for a single teacher to educate efficiently.”

Lickingteller feels that students will have a harder time receiving a “personalized” education in the years to come.

In a study conducted by the Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation For the Advancement of Teaching, students who participate in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and three times more likely to win an award for school attendance.

In the same study, it was found that students who participate in the arts are nearly twice as likely to read for pleasure.

Dimond High School band director Jason Edwards said that “over the last 10 years, the arts have been surprisingly well funded; core classes, though, seem to always be more prominent. The music department at Dimond receives only about $1,000 every year to spend. Grants are the main source of income and they usually come through positively. In the last two years, however, funding has been cut everywhere. Junior High School fine arts teachers are now required to teach an additional class, without pay.”

Edwards expressed that many school administrators are in favor of funding mathematics and science cores, while many parents favor supporting education in art and music classes.

In a recent study performed by the Harris Poll, 93 percent of American consider the arts to be vital to providing a well-rounded education for children and a critical link to learning and success.

In a different study done by The Conference Board, Americans for the Arts and the American Association of School Administrators, nearly 85 percent of business executives in the United States are having difficulty recruiting individuals who possess creative abilities.

The debate continues: Should the government allow for an increase of revenue to school districts’ art departments, or should money be utilized in other ways?

Statistics have shown that art, music and drama make for a more well-rounded and intelligent student — but at what cost?

As it stands, the money put into arts education is still decreasing, and will continue to do so until something changes.