Budget pressures are forcing school boards across the country to slash spending and cut programs central to a child's education. Later today, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) -- the second largest school system in the nation -- is set to revisit a plan that includes devastating cuts to elementary arts education programs. For the district's 275,000 elementary students, this could mean an education devoid of the arts curriculum that has long been a core part of a well-rounded, complete public education.
The prospect of arts vanishing from LAUSD schools is all the more shocking given the critical role that the arts play in driving the Los Angeles economy. The 2011 Otis Report on the Creative Economy, commissioned by Los Angeles' Otis College of Art and Design, found that creative industries directly employed 300,800 people -- and were indirectly responsible for more than 270,000 additional jobs -- in Los Angeles County. The entertainment business alone employs 120,000 people in LA, and creative industries are the fourth largest source of direct employment in the region. Creative industries in LA generated $115 billion in revenue in 2010 and contributed more than $2.8 billion to state and local government coffers through tax revenue.
That school leaders are even seriously considering these cuts in Los Angeles, arguably the American city where the positive economic impact of the arts is most apparent, ought to be a wake-up call to all of us. If we aren't willing to support an education that includes training in the creative arts, we haven't given our kids the education they deserve and our diverse economy requires. Ultimately, shortchanging our kids will hurt all of us. Our economy is only as strong as the education we provide the next generation.