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On the Chopping Block
On March 2, the United States government passed a stop gap funding measure for Fiscal Year 2011 to keep the government operational for another two weeks. The legislation written to allow this measure cut four billion dollars in domestic spending including the $40 million appropriated for Arts in Education- a program which supports model arts programs in public schools. This alarming cut is in addition to the twenty six percent funding cut to the National Endowment of the Arts made just a few weeks ago.
While it is possible that funding to Arts Education may be restored in the final piece of legislation for FY 2011, it is not probable. The message that our government is sending to America is clear- the arts are unimportant. What is even more alarming is the fact that drastic cuts to the arts- especially those made in education programs- are paving the way for states and school districts to make equally brutal reductions. If the arts are not important at the national level, why should anyone deem them necessary at state and local levels? One thing is very clear- without the benefit of arts programs in schools, the kids of today will grow up without regard for the arts, culture or humanities.
School districts around the country are preparing to send lay off notices to thousands of teachers. Budgets must be cut and teachers and programs will suffer. The arts are in grave danger of being lost to budgets that value technology over humanity, testing over creating. The National Endowment for the Arts is advocating contacting our congressional representatives to protest these thoughtless decisions. While I applaud their efforts and encourage all of my colleagues and those of you in the arts to write, call and bombard congress with our concerns, I am not convinced that anything short of an educational revolution in this country is going to make anyone sit up and take notice of what is needed to create positive change in a rapidly disintegrating system.