White House: It's Time To 'Reinvest' In Arts Education

05/09/2011 05:25 pm ET | Updated Jul 09, 2011

As education budget cuts continue to threaten the quality of education nationwide, a recent government report is encouraging schools to refocus on curriculum that is often found first in line for the chopping block -- the arts.

On Friday, President Obama's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities released a report titled: "Re-Investing in Arts Education: Winning America’s FutureThrough Creative Schools." It encourages "reinvestment" in arts education, citing social and intelectual benefits discovered during the committee's 18-month-long study.

The committee's report presented examples of success in Chicago, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, and Oklahoma that showed comprehensive improvements in learning -- from test scores to attendance rates. The report states:

"The arts can motivate and engage students; stimulate curiosity and foster creativity; teach 21st Century Skills such as problem solving and team work; and facilitate school-wide collaborations. While there is certainly room for additional information in these areas, there is no doubt that research about the value of arts education is positive and consistent."

Regardless of studied benefits, slashed budgets are causing many education officials to strip down arts curriculum.

Tom Balchak, an education board member in Colorado's Poudre School District, is part of a similar debate this week, as some of the state's schools are threatening to cut funding for music, arts and physical education. He criticized the view that some subjects, like science and math, are considered more "academic" than others. He told the Coloradoan:

"There continues to be a prevailing myth that the arts are somehow nonacademic, despite all the evidence to the contrary."

A similar battle brews in Pennsylvania. Last week, the Pottstown Middle School auditorium was filled with parents, students and teachers who wanted to voice their concern to the school board over simliar cuts, reported the Pottstown Mercury.

There, Rachel Levengood, a sixth-grade honor student, said being a part of the school's music program has helped her cultivate interpersonal communication skills. She further remarked that “soldiers are fighting for our freedom overseas, and it’s a shame we have to fight for our education here in a free land.”

While the battle rages on, volunteers have stepped in to give what budgets have cut off.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on ArtsBridge, a program that partners college students majoring in the arts with underperforming schools. Acting as volunteer arts instructors, the college students help educators incorporate creativity in teaching techniques.

Orr Middle School participated in the program, as it can't afford to have a formal arts instructor or an arts program. School officials said the program helped improve students English skills as various ArtsBridge projects emphasized self-expression.

George Leavens, Orr Middle School's principal, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that although it's an uphill battle, art must be a priority.

"Kids need to have that freedom to express themselves... We definitely need to keep art in school."