Arts in N.J. public education 2014: An integral part of student life

Posted On September 5, 2014

Arts education advocates always seem to live in fear that, especially in times of tight budgets, the first areas slashed will be anything arts-related. The past several years have been difficult ones for school budgets. The Christie administration and the state Legislature, in an attempt to tamp down property tax increases, have allowed school districts little wiggle room, even with local voters’ approval.

When enhancements are permitted by the bureaucrats, they tend toward more “practical” subjects. For example, students now must complete a financial literacy course to graduate — hardly objectionable, but it still sucks up money from the budget. And when schools talk about a curriculum “crisis,” it usually leans toward lack of preparation in technology and science, not singing and drawing.

Even though the visual and performing arts are part of the state’s core curriculum, how do you show their importance in black and white? New Jersey attempted to do just that in its most recent School Performance Report. The survey measured participation in arts classes based on data from schools showing what courses they offer and how many students were taking them. New Jersey is the first state in the nation to do this.

“Research shows a strong connection between arts education and success in college and career,” said then-Education Commissioner Chris Cerf when the report was released in January.

“Arts education is crucial in unleashing the creativity and innovation that are needed to succeed in today’s workforce,” said Cerf, who left the education department in February. Read more>>