The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education today unanimously passed a resolution establishing arts as part of the district’s core curriculum.
Authored by District 6 board member Nury Martinez, “Educational Equity, Student Achievement, and Master of 21st Century Workforce Skills through Arts at the Core” is a visionary call for the district to integrate the arts into all curriculum at every level, keeping the arts accessible to students throughout the district. A copy of the full resolution text is attached.
The resolution conversation took place in front of a board room filled to capacity with supporters and community members interested in learning more.
“I’ve waited three years to introduce this policy,” Ms. Martinez said, acknowledging the support and partnership of Arts for LA in crafting the resolution’s concise language. “I feel so passtionately about the importance of arts education. For me, this is a question of social justice and educational equity. Every student, including those in poverty, deserve access to the skills needed for the twenty-first century workforce. We need to jumpstart this dialogue about growing and maintaining arts education in this district. The time to step up our game is now. The arts are an essential component of mastery of the Common Core standards.”
Leading off the comments, Arts for LA Executive Director Danielle Brazell thanked the board and Superintendent Deasy for LAUSD’s historic and ongoing commitment to arts education. “This is an opportunity to connect the arts to the Common Core,” she said. “We realize California schools have a revenue problem right now and that’s why we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you to support the passage of Prop 30 and/or Prop 38 to make sure our schools have the revenue they need.” Brazell then introduced the speakers appearing in favor of the resolution.
Speaking on behalf of the importance of arts education, entertainer and renowned Latin American art collector Cheech Marin said, “I come here as an arts advocate. Every single one of [LAUSD’s] 700,000 students has a soul, and the arts are an articulator of the soul. Arts education goes toward making a whole person, making them aware of their divine nature.” Mr. Marin went on to articulate the lasting value of the products of arts education: the remainders of civilization. “As a culture, art is the only thing we leave behind. I can’t for the life of me think of a museum dedicated to the great businesses.”
“I come here today wearing many hats,” said Monica Rosenthal, who described her identities as an actress, a philanthropist, and parent of LAUSD students. “My husband and I have invested millions of dollars and our time in public arts education in Los Angeles. After all these years, I’ve seen first hand thousands of kids whose lives were impacted, who stayed in school simply because of the arts programs we provided. In a region built on creativity, Los Angeles needs to lead. If we don’t, who will?”
Mark Slavkin, Vice President of Education for The Music Center, encouraged the board members to consider the impact of the resolution over the long term. “We’re asking you to commit to a set of values and a vision. This is an opportunity to boost achievement, engage our students, and improve outcomes.” Mr. Slavkin also presented a letter authored by Nigel Lythcoe, producer of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, expressing his support for the resolution.
Former Teacher of the Year award recipient Carlos Luchu spoke about his own successful arts career and how an encounter with the great dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov during a difficult artistic period informed his teaching. Speaking of one of his students, he recounted how she came to him in tears when she was having trouble succeeding in class. “Why is this so important to you?” he asked her. “No one in my family has gone to college,” his student said. “I want to be the first.” He shared with her the lesson of his own arts training, given to him by Baryshnikov: get back up and keep trying.
A young Carlos Santana Arts Academy student spoke with articulation beyond her years about her experience taking arts classes in school, explaining how it helped her express her feelings more clearly, including happiness and “sometimes” sadness. “I hope you vote to sign this resolution so we can all have the arts in our schools and communities.” Following her remarks, she and her classmates sang a brief song and recited their school’s pledge, which included the words, “I am an artist. I am college bound.”
Other speakers on behalf of the resolution included Jim Herr, Senior Manager of Corporate Responsibility for The Boeing Company; Denise Grande, Director of Arts for All; and Matty Sterenchock, Program Officer for the Herb Alpert Foundation.
Board members responded favorably to the testimony from the community. District 1 board member Marguerite Pointdexter LaMotte, clearly emotional by the presentation, said, “I have always been an arts advocate.” Steven Zimmer, representing District 4, held up a box of letters in support of arts education several teachers from the district collected months earlier when elementary arts education funding was threatened for cuts. and, following the period for comments, expressed their support for the resolution. The vote in favor of adopting the resolution was unanimous.
LAUSD’s “Arts at the Core” resolution falls into direct alignment with the Arts & Culture Policy Framework for Los Angeles County, a document identifying opportunities and priorities for the development of a robust arts and culture community and use of the arts as a tool to solve social, economic, and civic issues throughout the region. Crafted in partnership with a variety of leaders in higher education, government, philanthropy, arts and culture, and business, the Arts & Culture Policy Framework serves as a guide for all arts advocacy efforts in the region.