It’s Time to Save Arts Education in L.A.

The LAUSD may become the first major metropolitan district in the country to eliminate the arts — no music, no painting, no school plays

So you may not have known this — in fact, I’m pretty sure you didn’t/don’t — but arts education is poised to disappear from the public elementary and middle schools in Los Angeles. That’s right, gone. Disappear. Vamoosh. Gone.

Yes, unbelievably, the LAUSD is in danger of becoming the first major metropolitan school district in the country to eliminate the arts. That would mean no dance, no theater, no music, no painting, no school plays, nothing that breaks up a day of academics and inspires a kid’s inner and outer child to come out and play.
And why is this happening? The budget crunch.
The district has to purge hundreds of millions of dollars to make ends meet, and thus the arts is on the chopping block. What the hell, right? It ain’t math or science or history or social studies or English or geography, so who cares?
I do. And so should you. Here’s why: If you take away the last vestige of mandated fun that a child has in his or her school day, you’re risking not simply an increased dropout rate but a potentially alarming rise in behavioral problems for students with no comparable outlet.
Then there is this other fact that LAUSD happens to be the home school district for a little place called Hollywood, which just happens to be the center of the entertainment industry.
You would think that some deep-pocketed benefactor from show business might be inspired to step forward to prevent such a travesty from happening as the arts to flat-out vanish from the schools that surround them.
As of the moment, the plan calls for LAUSD to slice 50 percent from the arts budget for the 2010-2011 school year and the other 50 percent from 2011-2012. Doing the quick math, that would leave approximately, um, roughly zero for arts education inside of two years.
And how much are we talking about here to save the arts and the jobs of approximately 400 teachers who are charged with delivering this form of education to the L.A. schools? A mere $14 million and change. That’s it: a measly $14 million annually. In Hollywood terms, this is the equivalent of a drop in the bucket, a Friday night’s box office take for "Avatar."
Where are the monetary saviors to rescue their hometown from arts education Armageddon? So far, they’re missing in action, perhaps because they don’t even know there is a crisis afoot. So consider yourselves now officially aware, would-be patrons. And it’s time to step up to the plate and deliver.
What of it, Steven Spielberg? What say you, David Geffen? James Cameron, how would you like to give back and have something meaningful named for your magnanimous gesture, say the James Cameron Arts Education Endowment?
It’s time for a billionaire to do the right thing and save a piece of our educational tapestry that’s in desperate need of saving — and right now. I can think of no better use for your money. Neither can the children of Los Angeles.
Can the city’s kids develop into well-adjusted, worldly people without exposure to the arts? Possibly. But I’m not sure it’s a place where any of them, or us, would care to live.
And it would be a disgrace if they had to try.