The Art of Funding
A shrinking budget doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to arts programs. Here are some creative ways to find the funding you need.
It might seem as though every school district in the nation has succumbed to the almighty god of testing. That can have the effect of throwing out any program that doesn’t directly bolster reading and math scores. But the situation is not yet that dire. States and municipalities across the country are working to make sure that arts education in all its incarnations is not left behind in the furor to comply with NCLB. Here are two of the more innovative strategies we’ve found:
In a time of constrained school budgets and uncertain funding, several Massachusetts districts have created public school endowments that will pay for programs that otherwise might be cut.
William R. Cooper, superintendent of the Old Rochester (MA) Regional School District, is trying to start a foundation that will fund arts and music curriculum. The fund’s principal would be allowed to grow for 15 years or so. Cooper believes this is a great way to get public school districts thinking about funding over the long term. “This is an entirely different mind-set from raising money, for instance, to build a tennis court. It’s more common in independent schools and colleges where endowments are critical. But a public school endowment can be very significant.”
Cooper, whose previous school district started an endowment that grew to about $80,000, thinks that the entire district would benefit if fund-raising took place on an individual town basis. Once the endowment grows, he would like to see the money fund an extra arts teacher or an orchestra program.
Get on the Bus
In San Diego, kids are getting more immediate exposure to the arts. An independent nonprofit organization called ArtsBusXpress is raising funds to underwrite the cost of busing students to venues where they can explore music, theater, dance, and fine art.
Cheryl Brown, president and CEO of ArtsBusXpress, is excited that the project targets all public and private K–12 schools in San Diego County, a total of 500,000 children in 42 districts. “Children’s lives are being transformed by the arts, one busload at a time. Our goal is to develop a model program that can be replicated across the country,” Brown says. “Keeping arts field-trip buses on the road needs a receptive school community, which we have here with the support of Carl Cohn, our new San Diego City Schools superintendent, as well as the San Diego County Office of Education.”
Schools reserve buses according to individual district policies and then are reimbursed by ArtsBusXpress (artsbusxpress.org). In many cases, a grant covers 100 percent of the bus rental, although schools sometimes pay the balance or ask sponsors to match the grant.
Photo credit: ©JLP/Jose Luis Pelaez/zefa/Corbis