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On March 13th, the Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) and the Arts and Education Initiative (AEI) of Harrisburg, PA released a significant arts and education report to the public. In it, state policy makers are urged to make quality arts education programs available to grades K-12 in all 500 Pennsylvania school districts. The report follows a year-long process involving comprehensive review of successful arts public policies, eight regional community forums, and surveys of several stakeholder groups by EPLC. Out of which, Pennsylvanian arts and education leaders and Advisory Committee compiled thirty-three recommendations for state policy makers to adopt. Notable figures from the Advisory Committee include Sandra Ruppert, Arts Education Partnership Director, and Narric Rome, Americans for the Arts Senior Director for Federal Affairs and Arts Education.
The report, Creating Pennsylvania’s Future Through the Arts and Education, calls for the reestablishment of at least one full-time staff position dedicated to arts education within the Pennsylvania Department of Education. “This position, now unfilled for more than a year, is pivotal to fulfilling the Department’s role and our recommendations concerning arts curriculum, assessment, and professional development,” said Ron Cowell, EPLC president. EPLC has urged the Department reopen the Governor’s School of the Arts at Mercyhurst College that was eliminated by Governor Rendell’s 2009-2010 state budget after 36 years of operation.
The report recommends that the state board of education require an arts credit for high school gradution. Policy makers are encouraged to do a better job of implementing current state arts policies and to create new ones. For example, the report cites existing regulatory standards-based arts assessments are rarely reported to the public or routinely carried out. Also mentioned, the Pennsylvania State Board fails to offer teacher certification for theatre or dance. The twenty-first recommendation states that the Pennsylvania’s General Assembly should amend the School Code which prohibits joint purchasing of materials and supplies between local nonprofit arts organizations and schools that would potentially lower costs for existing arts education programs within school board budgets.
The Republican Pennsylvania primary on April 24th, combined with the current budgetary negotiations climate, made it a perfect time for the release of the arts report. The Americans for the Arts Action Fund, AEI and Pennsylvanian arts advocates are helping to get the word out about the arts report and build new relationships with state and federal legislators.
The Americans for the Arts Action Fund advocates for arts funding and arts education. As we build the number of local and state organizations that sign our National Arts Education Advocacy Statement we thankfully acknowledge organizations, like the Education Policy and Leadership Center, that take up the mantle and disseminate much needed arts research.