Pass / Fail | So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Arts classes growing in some districts -- or at least shrinking more slowly than other courses

Patrick Hruby fills palates with paint before the poster-making workshop.
Patrick Hruby fills palates with paint before the poster-making workshop.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Arts education in some Los Angeles County school districts may actually be growing , according to a story from the online arts news site Classicalite.

The story's co-authors, Logan K. Young and Ricky O'Bannon, analyzed data from the California Education Demographics Office and found that in districts like Burbank, Beverly Hills and Inglewood  "arts-related" teachers in the 2010-2011 school year represented a larger portion of the total teaching pool than they in previous years.

They said that the 10 L.A. County school districts they tracked increased the number of  arts classes and arts teachers on staff between 1997 and 2007, when the recession hit. 

But they also outlined the challenges of gathering data that tracks the prevalence of arts education in the state. Among the problems:

  1. Many California districts don't track year-by-year arts spending. For those that do, data usually doesn't go back further than 2006 -- at least not in an easily to get digital form.
  2. Arts funding comes from multiple sources: district level, federal grants, private donations, parent groups and school's discretionary budgets, among others. All of this makes the funding difficult to track.
  3. Defining the arts can be a challenge. Schools often change their class descriptions and arts classes sometimes fall under non-arts categories. (Dance classes, for example, might be listed as gym classes.)

In a project with one of the authors of the story,  KPCC reported in October that LAUSD cut its arts education budget by about $60 million during the previous five years. Another story co-reported with O'Bannon outlined the history of arts education funding in Southern California.