President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan and Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed budget provides billions of dollars for education, but how much of that money will be spent on arts programs for Chicago school children?
No one really knows what amount from the $100 billion in stimulus for education or the governor’s $10.8 billion allocated for schools will target the arts. A combination of private and discretionary funds for the arts may again be necessary, despite an increase of $2.5 billion in the Illinois budget, the biggest in the state’s history.
“Whatever is decided in the local education offices will be moved to the mayor’s office…planned, and decisions made,” said David Roche, director of the office of arts education at Chicago Public Schools.
The Illinois Arts Alliance, a non-profit advocacy organization, conducted a state assessment in 2005 which revealed some troubling findings, according to executive director Ra Joy. Some 20 percent of surveyed principals said their schools had no arts education programs.
Fortunately, Illinois has made some progress over the past four years, Joy said. The Arts and Foreign Language grant program, initiated through the Illinois Department of Education, has allocated $4 million exclusively to arts education in 2009.
“We try to raise awareness of the value of arts and arts education in the general assembly,” Joy said of the Alliance and its partnership with the state government.
However, statistics show that this may not be enough for lower income neighborhoods where education programs suffer the most. So, Chicago Public Schools have turned to non-profit organizations to provide art instructors to a school system that cannot fund them, Roche said.
One such source is nonprofit Chicago West Community Music Center, located in the Garfield Park Golden Dome, 100 N. Central Park. The 10-year-old, after-school program provides dance and music programs to West Side kids. Nonprofit Chicago Arts Learning Initiative hopes to create a more robust arts program in schools, and add to the 800 certified teachers currently in the system, according to Julie Adrianopoli, a consultant for the Initiative.
“Arts education can’t solely be supported by funding through these grants,” Adrianopoli said, explaining that the Chicago Public School system needs to provide more money to keep these programs afloat.
How the stimulus money will be distributed to the arts programs, and under what parameters, will be fashioned in the mayor’s office. The official breakdown of Gov. Quinn’s education budget will be released in May.
Terry Dean contributed to this story.