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Arts teachers in LA County schools decreased by 10 percent

Advanced violin students at San Fernando Elementary in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Advanced violin students at San Fernando Elementary in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Ken Scarboro/KPCC

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A report to be released Thursday by the Otis College of Art and Design shows the number of arts teachers in Los Angeles County fell by about 10 percent in the 2011-2012 school year, the most recent data examined.

The 2013 Otis Report on the Creative Economy looked at figures from the California Department of Education and found more than 200 arts teacher positions disappeared between the 2010-11 school year and 2011-2012 in Los Angeles County — while overall the number of arts teachers in the state remained stable in that same period.

"Students' demand remains high, but unfortunately the county response to both student demands and the demands of our times is not equivalent," said Samuel Hoi, president of Otis College, which publishes the annual report on the state of the creative economy.

To be sure, school budgets have improved since then. Schools got an extra $2.1 billion in new funding in the 2013-14 budget - the first increase in years.

For 2011-2012, the number of K-12 arts teachers in L.A. County was 1,842. That's out of 27,599 teachers in all. While overall the teaching body dropped 7.8 percent that year, the number of arts teachers dropped in a higher proportion.

The reason for the decline was not studied. However, Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, who was the principal author of the report, said he suspects school districts' budgetary problems - as well as declining enrollment trends - may be to blame.

"As that happens, you're going to see some reorganizing of efforts and resources in and out of different areas," he said.

Kleinhenz said Orange County, which saw a small increase in its teaching arts corps, probably has more affluent districts as a whole than Los Angeles County.

Arts education represents a small portion of the 156-page report, which found that 351,500 people worked directly in the creative industry in Los Angeles County in 2012. The authors said the creative economy makes up 7.8 percent of California’s Gross State Product. This is the first year that the report examined the entire state. 

Other arts education findings: 

- In Orange County, the number of art teachers increased half a percent for the 2011-2012 school year, compared with 2010-2011. The total number of teachers in the county increased 15.7 percent. The county had 670 K-12 arts teachers as of 2011-2012.

- The number of K-12 arts classes in L.A. County increased from the 2010-2011 school year to 2011-2012, from 11,277 to 11,885. That count includes classes in art, dance, drama, music and web design. Orange County saw a similar trend; Arts classes there increased from 3,185 to 3,569 during the same period. 

- In L.A. County there are 401 private, post-secondary arts school locations; Orange County has 126.

- Statewide there are about 5,500 arts education nonprofits, according to representative sample data from the IRS, which economists said likely underestimates the actual numbers. That's about 3.8 percent of all nonprofits in California. 

- Nonprofits in L.A. County reported $2.1 billion in income. Arts education organizations made up 12.4 percent of that total. Performing arts schools accounted for 7 percent. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post stated that the number of arts teachers in California grew 3.3 percent from 2010-2011 to 2011-2012. In fact, the number of arts teachers stayed the same during that period. Arts teachers in California made up 3.3 percent of all full-time equivalent teachers in the 2011-2012 school year. KPCC regrets the error.