Boulder County arts educators will carry on, even without Amendment 66 tax revenue

By Jessica Caballero

Supporters of the failed tax-increase measure Amendment 66 touted that the money raised would give administrators flexibility in restoring arts education around the state. So the measure’s resounding defeat must mean a reduction in arts education, right?

Not in Boulder County schools, district officials say, at least in part because the county’s districts didn’t cut arts in the first place.

Before the vote, Douglass Elementary Principal Jon Wolfer said that the passage of Amendment 66 would “enable the district to funnel money towards other school needs that have been neglected in the past.”

Now, a full 10 days after the election, Briggs Gamblin, Boulder Valley School District’s director of communications, says arts education in the district will not need to borrow from other programs to remain.

“We did not cut arts programs as a result of budget cuts, so that part of it did not apply to us,” Gamblin said.

John Poynton of St. Vrain Valley School District said that their arts programs were safe as well. The district had money already set in the budget for arts funding, so those programs will not suffer.

In fact, arts programs throughout the state of Colorado seem to be flourishing.

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In the 2012-2013 school year, music is the most widely offered program in Colorado schools, followed by visual arts, theater and dance.

Here is the breakdown of how many schools offer specific arts programs:

  • Music, 1,645 schools (90.8 percent of all schools)
  • Visual arts, 1,596 (87.9 percent)
  • Theater 612 (33.7 percent)
  • Dance 273 (15 percent)

The study also showed that out of 435 responding schools across Kindergarten to 12th grades, almost half of all schools believe that the funding for arts education has decreased in the last five years.

Yet, the study revealed that half of all schools, at every level, also received outside funding for their arts education programs. Half of the funding that those schools acquire comes from partnerships with other arts institutes and organizations.

The study approximates that only 29,000 Colorado public school students attend schools without any exposure to formal arts education.

The discrepancy in the course offerings in any discipline could be due to the availability of qualified teachers and time for those courses, according to Karol Gates, arts content specialist for the Colorado Department of Education.

“In general, providing full-time, highly-qualified teachers in the four arts areas can overstretch a school’s budgetary constraints. Scheduling issues – lack of sufficient time allotted – for arts programming is also a concern that often occurs,” Gates said.

But not to worry, the study found that on the whole, Colorado school administrators believe in the value of arts education, though emphases have shifted in the past five years.

According to the Colorado Visual and Performing Arts Education Survey published in March of 2008 by Cypress Research Group, formal arts education was available for 93 percent of kindergarten through fifth grade students, 86 percent of sixth through eighth graders, and 83 percent of high school students in ninth grade and above.

In the 2007-2008 school year, visual arts education was the most frequently represented in middle schools and high schools, with music courses in a close second, with theater arts and dance lagging behind by a huge margin.

In elementary schools, 88 percent had visual arts courses, 94 percent had music, only 11 percent had theater, and 20 percent had dance instruction.

In middle schools, 66 percent had visual arts, 61 percent music, 22 percent theater and 11 percent dance.

High schools had the least overall arts instruction. Only 30 percent had visual arts, 26 percent music classes, 9 percent theater and a mere 3 percent had dance classes.

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