Making the Case for Title 1 Funds for Arts Education

For the past year the Alliance has been working behind the scenes to increase access to the benefits of arts education for students in Title 1 schools. Though Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stated that Title 1 funds may be used to support arts education strategies that target the program’s goals, as well as clear evidence that arts programs are linked to higher test scores and academic achievement, there has been hesitation among schools and districts to pursue arts education strategies within Title 1 programs. 
When we were brought into this conversation by Arts for LA, we were hearing reports that an entire school district had decided not to use Title 1 funds for those purposes. 
We began by seeking guidance from California's State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson. His office responded by saying "Title 1 funding might be appropriately used to support arts education as a strategy to improve student achievement in English-language arts and/or mathematics", provided that certain requirements are fulfilled. 

Based on that letter, we co-authored an oped with Arts for LA, solicited the support of arts education advocates (400 letters to the Superintendent) and continued to engage the Superintendent's office in this conversation. As a result, we have been invited to present a panel at the upcoming Title 1 conference in San Diego on September 27-28 sharing evidence that support arts education strategies as effective tools to increase student performance. Panelists include: Lynn Tuttle, Director of Arts Education, Arizona Department of Education; Christine Swenson, CDE, Director of District and School Improvement Division; Herman Mendez, Assistant Superintendent, Santa Ana Unified School District; Steve Venz, Principal, Quincy Jones Elementary School, LAUSD; Adjunct Professor, USC Rossier School of Education; and Lauren Stevenson, Arts and Education Consultant and Researcher, Arts Education Partnership, Washington DC. 
What we are seeking to do is to remove all obstacles in this process, so that school administrators understand that the door is open to those who are interested in pursuing arts education strategies, provided they are willing to honor the requirements of the Title 1 program. 

Title 1 aims to improve academic achievement in schools and districts with high rates of poverty. Numerous studies document the link between arts programs and academic achievement. According to a recent study by the NEA, low-income students involved in the arts have higher GPAs, test scores and are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. Arts education is also linked to greater parental engagement, which is another Title 1 goal. 
The California Alliance for Arts Education understands the potential of arts education to inspire learning and improve academic success. That is why we are pursuing this path.  
Joe Landon
Executive Director