Last summer, New York City Mayor Eric Adams cut $200 million from public school budgets, forcing 1,200 schools to decrease spending. Unsurprisingly, first to go were hundreds of arts teachers, with many elementary schools eliminating their music or art departments entirely.
Every year, public schools have to deal with limited funding and make tough decisions about where to spend money and where to make cuts. When budgets are cut, the first place to feel the damage is usually the Arts.
In 2022, although 88% of Americans believe that the arts are essential to a well-rounded education, most students don’t take classes in the arts. For example, in California, only 40% of students are enrolled in some type of arts course. This problem is exacerbated in poorer areas and in small and rural schools; because of the lack of funds, schools are more likely to promote STEM subjects while not providing students with access to an arts education.
Some people argue that the arts do not need to be funded because they are not a necessary part of our society. But what would our world look like without books, movies, concerts, and museums? Is culture itself “unnecessary”? Almost everything requires some artistic skill; even ads on TV and billboards require an artist. Parents thinking about their children’s futures should be aware that arts education nurtures greater social and emotional development and greater scholastic, social, and civic engagement. It is also important for brain development: visual arts classes help young children develop motor skills and social skills, while music helps connect both hemispheres of the brain, improving listening and communication.
From a career standpoint, Arts help with soft skills such as creative thinking, which was named as the top skill in demand by employers on Linkedin in 2020. Students in the Arts have also been shown to excel academically. Those who take at least four years of arts classes score over 90 points higher on SAT tests than those who do not. Most importantly, arts classes provide greater motivation to students to keep going to school. Students with longer histories of arts education are less likely to drop out of school and have higher graduation rates than those who do not take Arts classes.
Aside from these career and developmental benefits, Arts can also serve as a way for students to take a break and do something different from their normal core classes. It is important for students to have some time to relieve their stress during the school day, and arts classes allow students the chance to let loose and be creative and active. From my perspective, it makes sense why people who are allowed a creative outlet and a “break” during the day get higher scores and have lower dropout rates; for me, playing the violin helps me relax and relieves my stress when I don’t need to think about anything else but music.
Arts education should not always be the first item to get cut when budgets are tight. Students benefit tremendously from taking arts classes, which improve grades and wellbeing and serve as a creative outlet for students. Our mission at BeHASSTic is to provide HASST education when schools drop the ball because we know that arts are fun, useful, and necessary. However, communities and governments should not be relying solely on nonprofits to provide arts education. We need to make arts a priority so that public school children all around the country can be creative and reach their full potential.