Coalition Rallies for Arts Education Funding in the City Budget to Improve Student Well Being

New York City Arts in Education Roundtable joins with Town Hall, The Repertory Company, High School for Theatre Arts, electeds, Seth Gilliam, students, educators and advocates to re-launch "It Starts with the Arts"

NEW YORK, NY (03/30/2023) (readMedia)-- On Thursday, the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable, educators, students, Council Member Keith Powers and actor Seth Gilliam called on the Mayor and the City Council to increase access to arts education and guarantee all schools have a certified arts teacher in order to address learning loss from COVID and mental wellness issues, and to equitably improve overall student performance. The group re-launched the "It Starts with the Arts" campaign with the goal to boost arts education for New York City public school students.


Before the pandemic, a majority of principals reported that funding for the arts was insufficient to give all students a basic foundation in arts education. After three years of COVID the imperative to provide all students with a sound arts education has strengthened. Engagement in the arts can get students struggling to thrive socially, emotionally, and academically back on track. Research shows that arts education improves student performance, mental health and the overall chances of success later in life.

"Arts education is transformative for students. It not only helps them explore their creativity, it leads to better academic outcomes, mental health, and graduation rates. That's why the City must invest in our students' futures and guarantee that every young person – no matter where they go to school or where they live – has access to the arts. We're telling the City to remember It Starts with the Arts," said Kimberly Olsen, Executive Director of the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable.

"Many students across the city haven't and won't ever feel the effects of the budget cuts because of radical disparities that already exist in the New York Cities' schools, so funding for the arts must be restored, not only because the arts are necessary and transformative but also to begin the work of making our schools more equitable. Access to quality arts education should not be a privilege," said Keeshon Morrow , Assistant Principal & Director of Theatre and The Repertory Company.

"I was a very shy and introverted person growing up. I always struggled to express myself emotionally and verbally but with the education I've gotten in the arts at Repertory Company High School, I've learned to find who I am and be that happy and outgoing person," said student Farid Garofalo-Germes.

"Mayor Adams and the City Council must understand that school communities - New York City's children, parents, and families - have not recovered from the pandemic and risk becoming permanently disrupted without reinstated funding for the arts at pre-COVID levels. We don't need to prove that the arts support children's academic development and social-emotional wellbeing. That is a fact. Today we're calling on the city government to recognize that our children are struggling, and that the arts are one of a handful of proven, available resources schools have to support them holistically, every single day," said Jocelyn Bonadio-de Freitas, Director of Education, The Town Hall.

"The arts are so much more than an 'extracurricular,'" said City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. "They unleash creativity and self-discovery, support mental health, and introduce young New Yorkers to cultural careers. I am proud to stand with the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable to ensure that all students have access to the high-quality, enriching arts education that they deserve."

More than 315 schools (17%) do not have a certified arts teacher at their school, furthering inequity in our city's school system. The "It Starts with the Arts" coalition is calling on the Mayor and the City Council to hire more certified arts teachers ($31M) – which is in alignment with the "New" New York Plan. Arts education and exposure to New York City's cultural riches should be an essential component of every child's education. To support the hiring pipeline, the city should bring back the successful supplementary certification pilot program enabling cluster teachers to earn their arts content certification.

According to a report by Americans for the Arts, students from low-income communities who are highly engaged in the arts are more likely to have obtained gainful employment, completed college, and volunteered in their communities than peers with low arts involvement. Students from low-income communities who are highly engaged in the arts are also more than twice as likely to graduate college as peers with no arts education.

In addition to hiring certified arts teachers, the It Starts With Arts Campaign is calling on the City to:

  • Restore funding for Arts Services to pre-COVID budget level ($24M): Including Arts Partnership Grants that provide targeted opportunities for diverse student groups, with a focus on Multilingual Learners, Students with Disabilities, and Family Engagement.
  • Require DOE arts funding be spent on the arts ($76M): Require schools to allocate a minimum of $100 per student (from $80.15) for core arts instruction and programming, and require that money be spent on arts education.
  • Continue and increase "Support for Arts Instruction'' initiative funding ($6M): Build on city's downpayment to meet city-wide demand for increased arts learning opportunities.
  • Update NYCDOE's Arts & Cultural Services Guide technology and platform ($500k): Support one-time technology updates needed to improve search features and fix mechanisms to add new organizations (includingM/WBEs and small nonprofits).