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Arts ARE Education: The Campaign to Maintain & Grow PreK-12 Arts Education Programs in the 2021-2022 School Year

It goes without saying that 2020 was a year like no other in education, and we continue to face unique challenges in 2021. Dance teachers working in every sector of the field, from dance studios and community programs to universities and PreK-12 schools, demonstrated their adaptability, imagination, and persistence as they sought new ways to reach their students in the most challenging of times. Dance educators pivoted instruction in new and unforeseen ways, turning to virtual, hybrid, or socially distanced studio environments to ensure that safety was the highest priority. Through it all, they have been ensuring meaningful learning outcomes and creating supportive, impactful learning experiences for their students.

PreK-12 dance education in public schools was particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and the reality is that the difficulties for dance in this sector may have only just begun. Some school districts had already eliminated or cut back on dance programming as we entered the 2020-21 academic year, and it is likely that this trend will continue due to budget shortfalls, scheduling issues, and safety concerns. To ensure a vibrant future for the field of dance, we must come together to support dance in PreK-12 education. 

In-school dance programs are a vital part of the dance education community. They ensure that all students have access to dance education, regardless of their background, ability, and socioeconomic status. Students who discover dance as part of the school curriculum often seek out further instruction at studios and in after-school programs, and go on to attend college dance programs. The entire dance fields benefits from in-school PreK-12 dance programs. Together, we should prepare to meet challenges that lie ahead in this sector, and ensure that dance and arts education remains central to every student’s well-rounded education. 

School districts will be facing budget shortfalls due to state and local deficits caused by the pandemic recession. These cutbacks -- along with the costs associated with the continued need for Personal Protective Equipment in performing arts classrooms, a focus on remedial curriculum, and scheduling modifications to address learning loss -- will likely impact student access to dance and other arts education. Funding for arts education must be maintained to support the well-being of all students, their school communities, and the field of dance itself. 

Group of dancers posing with one arm raised wearing white tunics in front of a purple background.

What is the Arts ARE Education Campaign?

NDEO is proud to be participating in the Arts ARE Education Campaign in support of dance education in PreK-12 schools. This campaign asserts that all PreK-12 students have the right to a high-quality school-based arts education in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts taught by certified professional arts educators in partnership with community arts providers. As a well-rounded subject area under federal education law, the Every Students Succeeds Act, music and the arts support the social and emotional well-being of students, foster a welcoming and safe school environment, and encourage inclusivity through multiple pathways for every child’s creative voice. As states and schools work through multiple challenges in the years ahead, arts education must remain central to a well-rounded education and fully funded to support the well-being of all students and the entire school community.

In April 2020, 111 national arts and arts education organizations endorsed “Arts Education is Essential,” a one-page statement authored by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS). The document asserts that the arts, a well-rounded subject area under federal law, support the social and emotional well-being of students, foster a safe and welcoming school environment, and encourage the inclusion of every student’s voice.  

Inspired by “Arts Education is Essential,” NCCAS is launching Arts ARE Education, a new national campaign that will emphasize funding, maintaining, and growing PreK-12 dance and arts education programs in the 2021-22 school year and beyond.  To activate the campaign, we are reaching out to encourage dance arts teachers and school boards to indicate support for arts education in their districts through two digital documents:

  • The Arts ARE Education Resolution, which asks school boards to resolve that the district will continue to fully fund and provide appropriate resources in support of arts education programs in a manner proportionate to all other subjects that are part of a well-rounded education. 
  • The Arts ARE Education Pledge that the campaign asks you, as an in-the-trenches arts educator, to sign demonstrating your own commitment to the district’s arts education programs.

The school budget process has likely already begun in your district or will soon. By February, a preliminary budget may be available for public review and comment; generally, in March, there is a final presentation of the budget in which feedback will be accepted prior to approval. To prepare for the decision-making meetings that will be taking place, we need school districts to pass the Arts ARE Education Resolution now, resolving that they will maintain arts education funding and programming in the 2021-22 school year. Knowing that they have done so will allow advocates to speak up with confidence as discussions are tabled regarding students, staffing, curriculum, and resources.  

As dance educators, this campaign may seem obvious. We have seen firsthand that the arts are education, and are as fundamental to student success as any other subject area. But, we must remember that not everyone knows the value of the arts in education. Classroom teachers, school administrators, local and state government officials, community leaders, and our students’ families may need to hear this message, especially right now. We must make our voices heard to ensure that arts education remains central to a well-rounded education and fully funded to support the wellbeing of all students and the entire school community. 

Group of students in a dance studio in a variety of dance clothes all on releve with arms above head

How Can You Get Involved? 

  1. Embrace the Arts ARE Education campaign. Encourage your school board to pass the Resolution and urge other educators and community members to sign the pledge. Share the campaign’s key talking points on social media, using the hashtag #artsReducation. 
  2. Attend school board meetings. Find out when your local school board meets by checking the district website. Someone representing the arts should attend every meeting and report out to other advocates regarding future funding or other issues related to arts education in the district’s schools. 
  3. Speak with school leaders in your district about the power of arts education. Share the campaign talking points and your stories of how dance and other arts education has continued successfully throughout the pandemic in your school and supported students’ well-being and a positive school climate. 
  4. Celebrate with other area school districts that embrace the Arts ARE Education campaign. Share your wins on the Arts ARE Education website, urge other district arts educators to do the same, and ask your school board to post their district’s resolution on the school website. 
  5. Visit the Arts ARE Education website for resources and updates. The campaign has assembled a website digital toolbox and created opportunities to help prepare advocates. 
  6. Sign the Arts ARE Education Pledge and Share the Arts ARE Education Resolution with your school board.  All PreK-12 students have the right to a high-quality school-based arts education in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts taught by certified professional arts educators in partnership with community arts providers.
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