And as funding for arts education becomes increasingly uncertain, especially after the state’s new budget plan, events like fine arts day at Cerritos have grown in value, they said.
California’s new budget plan, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week, includes $8.6 billion in cuts to education and will slash up to $6.4 million from the Glendale Unified School District’s budget, but more harmful to arts programs could be flexibility measures offered by the plan. Educators will now be allowed to use money from previously restricted state grants, including some allocated to pay for arts supplies and instructors, to help cover losses caused by the budget cuts.
“It seems to make fine arts day a little bit more important,” said fourth-grade teacher Kelly Garay, who was giving students an introduction to 19th-century artist Georges Seurat and his famous style of painting with dots, known as pointillism. “It does give us time to fit [art] in, even if it is not a tested subject.”
The state’s emphasis on academic performance has hindered teachers’ abilities to develop lessons involving art, which often take significant amounts of time to plan, Principal Janice Hanada said.
“Because we’re so focused on trying to get all the academics in before testing in May, we rarely have enough time to teach the arts,” she said.
While one day of arts education might be brief, it has proven to be important for Cerritos students, many of whom are from low-income backgrounds, with 86% of students receiving free and reduced-price meals, which are allocated based on need, Hanada said.