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Candidate Surveys Make the Arts Matter in Elections
October 25, 2012

The Challenge: How does a well-known arts council reinvigorate its arts education messaging?

The Strategy: Seize moments of momentum like a statewide Candidate Survey Project in a big election year.

The Story: The Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County has a long history of support for arts education, beginning in 1980 when it launched the nationally recognized SPECTRA program (Special Teaching Resources in the Arts) in response to Proposition 13.

Today, according to a recent white paper by the Council, the community has “the local expertise and skills needed to make a major impact in this field, numerous case studies to draw upon, a supportive community of parents, teachers, school administrators and arts organizations and hundreds of teachers, artists, and administrators who have received quality professional development in arts education.” Yet, like so many communities, its arts education offerings are also dependent on the ebb and flow of financial resources.

 “Arts education in...

October 25, 2012


Remarks from Ann Morhauser, CEO and Designer of Annieglass and one of the hosts of our local advocacy launch breakfast in Santa Cruz County.

Artists do not fall fully-formed from the sky ready to create the next Mona Lisa or your next smart phone, computer, gadget, cancer cure, bridge, car, sunscreen, seat belt, MRI, solar panel, wine, ATM… They need to be taught, trained, nurtured, given room, space and time to develop their own personal vocabulary to be able to interpret and communicate their vision.

Any invention requires more than engineering. Innovation requires imagination, the ability to construct and deconstruct unhindered, analysis, and creativity. Vital to any sort of artistic development is both the nerve to carry it out and the freedom to fail.

As an artist, I am constantly made aware of my “uniqueness at also being good at business.” Well I did not learn business at art school (although I do advise the first MBA program of its kind at California College of the Arts, my alma mater, so students can) but I did learn to problem...

A grateful goodbye to five board members
October 25, 2012
This month, the Alliance said a heartfelt goodbye and a hearty thank you to five amazing arts education leaders who, after many years of service, retired from our board. 
They are Carol Cosivar, current State PTA President; Leslie Johnson, Director, Education & Outreach for Center Theatre Group; Sarah Murr, who recently retired from her position as Global Corporate Citizenship, Community Investor for The Boeing Company; Frances Phillips, Program Officer for the Walter & Elise Haas Foundation; and Jim Thomas, the Visual & Performing Arts Coordinator for the Orange County Deptartment of Education. 
We are grateful for their smart, savvy and passionate leadership for arts education in California. Laurie Schell, executive director of the Alliance from 2000 – 2010 shared the following tributes their individual contributions. 
Sarah Murr (pictured left)...
Persuasion vs. Enforcement
October 23, 2012

Persuasion vs. Enforcement: Advocating for the Visual and Performing Arts

A policy paper by Carl W. Schafer 

Longtime educator, advocate and member of the Alliance Policy Council Carl Schafer makes the case for enforcement as an effective approach to arts education advocacy in his policy paper.  His full bio is listed below. 
Opportunities for instruction in the Visual and Performing Art in the public schools have been on the decline for many years. It is quite evident the school district governing boards believe that VAPA are an optional course of study. This is occurring despite the fact that since 1995, VAPA have been mandated by the California Education Code. EC Section 51210(e) requires that all students in grades 1-6 receive instruction in the four disciplines (music, dance, theater and visual art) based on courses of study. EC Section 51220(g) requires that students in grades 7-12 be offered the four disciplines, based on courses of study. In addition, EC Section 51050 requires the governing boards to enforce the courses...
Opening the Door for Arts Education & Title 1
October 2, 2012
Last week California’s Title 1 Conference was held in San Diego, bringing together Title 1 administrators and school and parent representatives from around the state.
One of the breakout sessions listed was “Title 1, Student Achievement and the Arts.” The session was both the culmination of year’s work and the first step on a journey that will encourage schools throughout California to choose arts education strategies as a means of accomplishing Title 1 goals. 
To back up a little…The California Alliance for Arts Education and Arts for LA have been working, along with the solid support of letter-writing advocates from around the state,  to engage the California Department of Education in a discussion about how to provide guidance to Title 1 schools interested in pursuing arts education strategies. These efforts led to a letter to the field from the Department in February, and was followed by an invitation to the Alliance to present a panel at the statewide conference, explaining the process involved in selecting arts education strategies. 


Why We Need Props 30 AND 38
September 27, 2012

A message from California Board Chair, Mark Slavkin

The fate of public education in California is on the ballot this November.  Arts education and every other element of a quality education are at risk unless we pass Propositions 30 and 38.  

Proposition 30 is proposed by Governor Brown in order to balance the current year state budget without further devastating cuts to schools.  School districts will be forced to cut several weeks from the current school year if Proposition 30 is not approved. 

Proposition 38 will generate new state revenue and begin the process of restoring essential funding for our schools. Neither measure is about arts education per se, although Proposition 38 lists the arts as one potential use for the money. Yet if these measures are approved, they provide real hope that we can rebuild vital arts programs. If they lose, all bets are off. 
As advocates for children, it is our responsibility to work for passage of these measures.  We need to demonstrate to our colleagues in public education that...
SB 1458 Expands School Assessments Beyond Standardized Tests
September 27, 2012
This week Governor Brown signed into law, SB 1458 (Steinberg), legislation which alters the structure of California's Academic Performance Index (API) by setting a 60% limit for standardized test performance for high schools. With the current API, standardized tests constitute 100% of the accountability measure. The remaining 40% must include graduation rates as well as other college and career readiness factors that reflect the expectations of public education and the needs of the state's workforce. Promotion rates for grades 7-12 may also be included. In primary and middle schools, standardized test performance would comprise at least 60% of the API.

The bill requires the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) submit, for approval by the State Board of Education, valid, reliable, and stable measures of college and career readiness. SB 1458 encourages the SPI to develop school quality reviews to complement the API. The review process would feature locally convened panels to visit schools, observe teachers, interview...

Making the Case for Title 1 Funds for Arts Education
August 27, 2012
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...
UPDATE on SB 789 (Price)
August 27, 2012

Last Thursday, August 16, the fate of SB 789 (Price) was decided when the Assembly Appropriations Committee voted to 'hold' the bill. That means that it will not be eligible for further hearings this year and so has effectively run its course. As the original sponsors of the bill the Alliance was disappointed by the decision. We believe the bill offered an important opportunity for schools to demonstrate their commitment to creativity and innovation across the curriculum, by creating an index that would measure access to those learning opportunities.

But while this piece of legislation won’t become law, it has succeeded in raising awareness about the importance of creativity and innovation in our schools. The bill was a catalyst for numerous news stories over the past year, hundreds of letters of support to state legislators and Joint Committee on the Arts hearing in Sacramento that drew a standing room only crowd as well as a robust audience streaming live. In addition, the bill’s language was integrated into larger accountability legislation (SB 547 Steinberg), marking the first time...

“Don’t water down your arts plan just because the economy is bad.”
August 27, 2012

The Challenge: Five years into your district arts plan there’s still no money. How do you maintain momentum when budget woes continue? 
The Strategy: “Don’t water down your arts plan just because the economy is bad.”
The Story: When stakeholders in Saddleback sat down to renew their district’s arts plan (they expire every five years), there were still items from the original plan that hadn’t been accomplished. There were facilities that hadn’t been built and equipment that was still needed. There were also a lot of new faces around the table. Would this new group be able to keep momentum and agree on a plan? 
According to Jim Thomas, Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for the Orange County Department of education, these potential obstacles turned out to have unexpected benefits. 

“Rather than frustrating the group, I think the unfinished elements of the plan gave people a sense of urgency about renewing the plan and even adding...