Parents scoff at mayor's claims of flush arts programming in CPS

Written By Sun-Times Wire Posted: 12/13/2013, 12:55pm

Below is a Friday news release from the parent group Raise Your Hand. It’s in response to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s claim this week that arts education in CPS “is core to a child’s education. It’s not extra.” CPS’ Arts Education Plan calls for two hours of arts education weekly in elementary schools, which Raise Your Hand claims isn’t happening in many schools.

3 p.m. update: CPS office of communications says it’s important to note that the Arts Education Plan is being rolled out over three years. CPS is at the end of the first year of the plan. And regarding the computer science education initiative, CPS says the program (curriculum as well as teacher training and stipends) will be paid for by, not by the district.

Mayor’s Claims of Arts and Other Programming at CPS Grossly Inaccurate.

Funding, Programming and Positions Lacking at Many Schools; Two Hours of Weekly Art for all is a Fallacy

CHICAGO, December 13, 2013 – Education advocacy coalition, Raise Your Hand is calling into question Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s claims following recent appearances regarding current Arts and other programming at CPS. During an appearance on Wednesday announcing a new Arts grant at Chicago’s Symphony Center, the Mayor referenced the CPS Arts Education Plan, which “ensures that every child has access to the arts in school, along with strategies to realize them.” According to the plan, this currently includes two hours of arts education a week for elementary school students. The Arts Education Plan also includes “increased funding assistance and strategies to ensure arts instruction in every school, including diversifying the types of arts offerings in schools and increasing dedicated supplies and resources.”

During his appearance, Mayor Emanuel stated, “It means arts education is core to a child’s education. It’s not extra.”

Despite the Mayor’s claims, Arts programming is lacking or non-existent at many Chicago Public Schools. In fact, after analyzing the cps budget site under “Budget by Program/Instruction/School,” Raise Your Hand found a significant number of lost positions this year including, at the elementary level:
· 68 art positions

· 47 music positions

· 19 performing arts positions

· 22 technology positions

At the High School Level, cuts include:
· 28 Music positions

· 14 Art positions

The above cuts do not take into account those schools that were already operating with limited or now Arts programming.

Stacza Lipinski, parent of a Kindergartner at Carnegie Elementary in Woodlawn notes, “My son has not had one art class yet this year. He will have 5 straight weeks of visual art in the spring, which totals 25 hours of class with a certified art teacher. That does not get anywhere close to averaging 2 hours of art per week.”

Nell Cotton, parent at Grimes Fleming Elementary is also disenchanted by CPS claims on Arts education. “My children have never had an art class at CPS. Their school does provide music once a week but that is the only course in the arts. They have been exposed to and it does not total two hours a week. We don’t have the budget at our school to provide for a rich arts curriculum.”

In addition to claims about fully funded arts programs, in recent weeks, Mayor Emanuel has also touted a “comprehensive K-12 computer science education plan” that will teach all students computer science and provide computer science classes for all high school students. The CPS Board will also soon be voting on daily Physical Education for all schools. However, these directives are coming with no additional funding for district schools, which have been cut by roughly $100 million this year.

“With CPS’ new per pupil funding amount of $4,140.00 per student, these directives for Arts, technology and PE cannot be achieved across the board for all schools,” said Wendy Katten, Director of Raise Your Hand. “Many of our schools cannot even afford the very basics to run right now. Without the funding to accompany these goals and directives, this is nothing more than a pipe dream.”

While some schools have little to no Arts programming or positions, others have been forced to raise outside funds to supplement what has been cut or never existed.

“At some schools, parents have managed to raise enough money to supplement lost or non-existent art, music, PE and other positions – but it is coming out of parent’s pockets, not CPS,” said Amy Smolensky, Raise Your Hand Board member. “Parents shouldn’t be forced to raise money for something the Mayor claims ‘is not an extra.’ And those that can raise the funds are considered the lucky ones. The majority of schools are not able to raise outside funds so their students simply have to do without.”

In addition to positions lost in the Arts and technology, this year’s budget cuts have also impacted positions including:

At the elementary level:
· 51 schools lost a librarian position

· 77 schools lost a reduced class size position

At the High School Level, cuts include:
· 90 English positions

· 37 History positions

· 28 Librarian positions

· 22 Social Studies positions

· 21 Biology positions

· 6 Chemistry positions

· 3 Physics positions

· 50 Math positions

*The above is not a comprehensive list. There are other program areas impacted by budget cuts. RYH found these cuts on the cps budget site under “Budget by Program/Instruction/School

About Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education: Raise Your Hand is a growing coalition of Chicago and Illinois public school parents, teachers and concerned citizens advocating for equitable and sustainable education funding, quality programs and instruction for all students and an increased parent voice in policy-making around education.