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IMPORTANT UPDATE

There is perhaps nothing more important to the furtherance of the arts as a cultural asset than robust arts education in our public schools.  To that end, CITY OPERAa member of the Los Angeles Arts Consortiumsupports a "three-legged stool" model of shared delivery when it comes to arts education.  The model asserts that effective arts education relies on the coordinated efforts of 1) classroom "generalist" teachers, 2) district employed arts "specialist" teachers, and 3) teaching-artists from professional community arts organizations.  Teaching-artists from community arts organizations are especially important; they connect students with rapidly evolving innovations of the creative economy beyond the limited reach of school campuses. 

CITY OPERA's community engagement team represents a unique hybrid of all three types of educational professionals.  Our director, for instance, served as a regular classroom teacher: as a middle school band and orchestra teacher,  a continuation high school generalist teacher, as well as an artist-faculty member of a performing arts high school.  Some of our advisors actively teach as regular, full-time, fully certificated, unionized classroom teachers or as school site administrators. The point is: the company has a deep understanding of the needs of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and funders
all of whom are stakeholders in arts education.  But perhaps most importantly, CITY OPERA also serves as a community-based partner in arts education, working directly with schools throughout the country.  In addition to administrative and financial support, we provide highly trained and experienced professional teaching-artists who deliver instruction, and create a valuable bridge of resources between participating campuses and their surrounding communities.


ABOUT THE CRISIS IN LOCAL ARTS EDUCATION

The LA Unified School Districtthe largest school district in the US with nearly three-quarters of a million studentshad the vision to create a 10 Year Arts Plan in 1999.  The plan, set in motion by the Board of Education, established funding for its implementaton, and promised funds would remain the same each year.  Moreover, rollout of the plan included vetting the quality of instruction provided by professional community arts organizations while simultaneously streamlining the process by which school site administrators could connect with these organizations.  Likewise, many efficiencies were established in the invoicing and payment for these services.  CITY OPERA was among the very first participants in this important initiative.

The net result of the 10 Year Arts Plan was a promising increase in the access of all students to qualified arts instruction, and the development of a socially conscious arts education industry devoted to filling gaps in public arts education left in the devastating wake of Propostion 13.  Prop 13, a 1978 amendment to the state's constitution, provided homeowners a property tax advantage, but at an expense to many state-funded public education programs, not the least of which were arts related programs in schools.  Prior to Prop 13, California led many indices of student achievement.  Since that time, however, student achievement steadily declined, and now the state consistently ranks among the lowest in the nation.  A burgeoning population and the complexities of maintaining multicultural relevancy further accelerated the strain on resources once allocated for instruction in the arts and other subjects.  Finally, the demands of standardized testingtesting focused on a narrow subset of skills and fraught with inherent cultural biases—fully marginalized the arts as core curriculum, even though the arts are well proven to improve academic performance and provide a ready means for infusing instruction with cross-cultural meaning.  The 10 Year Arts Plan was a glimmer of hope in an anemic system of arts instruction.

Fast-forward to 2009: in the face of precipitous budget shortfalls sparked by the implosion of the mortgage industryan industry with large speculative interests in Californianot only was the program by which community-based arts organizations connected with schools suspended indefinitely, the Los Angeles Unified School District cut fully half of its arts specialist teachers in one year. The remainder were slated to go the following year.  History oddly repeated itself.  The net result was the dramatic loss of more than 350 arts specialist teachers, as well as the district's unmooring with more than 60 professional arts organizations representing hundreds more community-based teaching-artists. The economic loss to Los Angeles was profound, and amounted to the un-doing of a decade of work by thousands of individuals who labored tirelessly to rehabilitate nearly an entire generation suffering from arrested cultural development.  These cataclysmic shifts in funding priorities sent the region back to the post-Prop 13 arts education "Stone Age" of the 70's.  It's easy to conjecture the long-term impact on the imagination of kids tomorrowkids who represent the follow-on forces for our creative economy, one of the few industries America is still proud to export into the global marketplace.  CITY OPERA's mission is to fight these developments in the arts education landscape—to strategize and execute game-changing programs with ferver and ingenuity. 

If you are a stakeholder in a school committed to maintaining arts instruction in these financially trying times, please call us.  A planning meeting with your school's principal, vice principal, arts cadre chairperson, teachers, or parent group to discuss the sustainability of arts programs in your school is free!  You can also take action by getting involved with a local advocacy group.  If your school is located in Los Angeles, also check out Arts for LA for more info on how you can help make a difference. Join us in keeping the arts not only alive, but central to the growth and development of imaginations which promise a brighter tomorrow.

CITY OPERA holds a master contract to deliver educational services throughout LAUSDmeaning its programs have been vetted for quality by the district itself.  Formerly, invoicing for contract and supplemental services was managed through the LAUSD's Arts Education Branch.  This program was suspended in 2009. However: Title 1 funding is now eligible for use in bringing City Opera to your school. If you're uncertain how to use Title 1 funds for this purpose, please contact us or the Arts Education Branch.