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Los Angeles

County Pushes for More Arts in Schools

Education: Officials are compiling database of resources, but stop short of allocating new funds.

September 26, 2002|DAVID PIERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles County encouraged local school districts on Wednesday to reinvigorate arts education during the next decade, saying it is a valuable goal even in this time of tight budgets.

In a new Regional Blueprint for Arts Education, the county is urging the 82 school districts to include arts in their core curriculum and to train teachers to meet California standards in arts education.

The blueprint's sponsors--the county Board of Supervisors, county Arts Commission and county Office of Education--are putting together a database of 300 arts organizations that often provide free programs for schools and training for teachers. The blueprint also proposes making that database available online soon.

The county, however, struggling with its own budget crisis, is not offering any new significant funds for arts education.

The plan is undergirded by research that shows students perform better in school when involved in the arts.

"This is about making arts an integral part of our curriculum just like geography, algebra and social studies," Zev Yaroslavsky, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said at a Pasadena news conference announcing the program.

Newly appointed county Office of Education Supt. Darline P. Robles said she hopes districts will support arts spending even in this tougher financial environment. She said it was important to support officials who advocate for the arts.

Mark Slavkin, a former member of the Los Angeles Board of Education who is now vice president of education at the county's Music Center, said he welcomed ways to better connect with other arts groups in the effort.

"Each of us doing our own thing hasn't proven to be a reliable policy," Slavkin said. The Music Center provides dance, theater, music and visual arts performances to hundreds of schools.

While other area districts have cut back on arts spending, the Los Angeles Unified School District has spent $25 million the last four years revitalizing arts in its elementary schools. But even if no other district follows suit, Laura Zucker, executive director of the county Arts Commission, said she hopes schools can stretch what arts resources they have.

"It's important that we do planning when [financial] times are bad," she said. "When the pendulum shifts the other way, we'll be prepared and we'll get more funding."

A report in 2000 said 78% of the county's districts spent less than 2% of their budgets on arts education. Zucker said spending needs to be increased to 5% for the plan to succeed during the next 10 years.

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