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Schools In 14 VA Cities Work To Expand Arts Education

The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — In an effort to expand arts education for all K-8 students, 14 cities and school districts have now joined a program linking local arts groups with nearby schools to improve programs amid strained budgets.

School and arts leaders from Sacramento, Calif., to Baltimore met Wednesday near Washington to compare notes on what's working in the initiative run by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The "Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child" program began with Sacramento in 2009, and officials said it has quickly expanded to now reach 1 million students this year.

When Sacramento launched the effort in the midst of the Great Recession, the city's elementary schools had almost no arts teachers left, said Erika Kraft of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. Only 17 percent of students had any exposure to the arts in school. Now all 35,000 students attend a live performance every year, and the city is looking to expand pilot projects with teaching artists and arts integration with other subjects.

Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser said the program could expand to include 50 to 75 school systems over the next decade with help from a new $1 million endowment from the Newman's Own Foundation announced this month.

"I'm actually convinced the reason why it's growing so fast is that it just makes sense. It really does work," Kaiser told educators and arts leaders Wednesday. "We'll be able to show with numbers that this actually is the way to do arts education in a resource-constrained world."

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Candy Schneider, who helped lead the effort in Las Vegas since 2010, said it's expanding from a pilot project to serve all the K-8 schools in the nation's fifth largest school district. The Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Las Vegas Ballet are helping to fund and support the effort to expose all students to the arts with federal grants and private donations. Las Vegas schools also received a nearly $900,000 three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to expand training in arts integration. Teachers also travel to the Kennedy Center in Washington each summer for training.

The combined effort has eliminated competition among various arts groups for education funding, said Schneider, who is vice president of education at the new Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas.

"It's a different approach. Rather than one entity or one fund that has funding going into arts integration, each of the entities has worked within their capacities to build their support," she said. "Then there's no fighting over money. It's directed at children and how do we provide those opportunities for children."

Tulsa, Okla., which joined the program in 2011, pursued an ambitious strategy to serve all 30,000 students with a new arts-integrated curriculum linked to Common Core standards in language arts, science, math and social studies, said Amber Tait of the Tulsa Arts and Humanities Council. Arts organizations have joined in to provide live arts experiences in the city's theaters and museums.

In Fresno, Calif., where elementary music funding had been eliminated entirely 10 years ago, the city has generated $2 million in new funding for arts education. This year all 4th graders will attend a concert at the Fresno Philharmonic and will play along with their recorders.


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