They're holding school arts programs hostage: Don't pay the ransom

POLITICS: They’re holding school arts programs hostage: Don’t pay the ransom

Spare us the threats of cuts to public-school arts due to supposed funding shortfalls; can’t the “advocates” at least find some other program to hold hostage for a change?

Fine: Screaming about the loss of instruments or painting instruction for children is a great way to build political support for no cuts anywhere, but the fact is that the city now spends more than $37,000 per enrolled public-school kid.

If the arts are “threatened,” it’s only because other beaks are being whetted to great excess.

But with the city and state getting set to finalize their budgets, the con job is in full swing.

For example, the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable (whose mission for some reason includes working “to dismantle white supremacy”) warns that kids will be deprived of these important programs unless taxpayers are squeezed more.

“Arts education programs [are] on the chopping block due to expiring federal funds,” it warns, citing the loss of $41 million COVID aid.

“That money has gone to every single school,” notes Roundtable head Kim Olsen.

Fine, COVID aid is expiring (the falloff will be even greater in coming years) — but the COVID threat is long gone, and never had anything to do with arts education anyway.

And arts outlays are a tiny part of the city Department of Education’s $37 billion spending — up 10% from just five years ago, even as enrollment has dropped markedly.

Per-student outlays are up more than 25% in that span, with the FY 2025 number, per the Citizens Budget Commission, projected to hit nearly $40,000 — i.e., more than tuition at many private schools.

(It’s not just DOE excess: The Empire State leads the nation, shelling out almost twice the national per-kid average.)

And remember, for all that money, city taxpayers see tragically mediocre scores on standardized tests.

In all those billions, the city can find the pocket change for clarinets, paint brushes and, yes, arts teachers. (Scaling back the destructive state class-size mandate even slightly would alone free up millions.)

The city’s still hammering out priorities and budgets for individual schools for the coming year.

Every principal, incidentally, has a key say in the school’s arts-program funding: Advocates truly worried about arts cuts would be wise to focus their lobbying with that in mind.

But under no circumstances should New Yorkers pay the ransom and boost all school funding — even if the advocates threaten to shoot their hostages.

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