Arts education provides essential skills and knowledge that contribute to the overall education and well-being of all children. Research demonstrates that an arts-rich education positively impacts student attendance and behavior, improves academic performance, and is a key factor in keeping students on track to graduate.
You can play an important role in building a high-quality arts education program at your child’s school. In fact, parents working together with teachers and school administrators not only help their own children, they empower the entire school community. Below are helpful tips to get you started building a high-quality arts education program at your child’s school.
Step 1: GET TO KNOW YOUR SCHOOL
Find out what arts programming and resources are offered in your child’s school. Talk to your child and his or her teachers. Look on bulletin boards, in auditoriums, and on the walls for evidence of the arts. See if your district collects arts-related data that you can review. As you learn more, answer these key questions:
- Are there arts teachers on staff? How many and in which arts discipline?
- Do all students at all grade levels receive arts instruction? If not, why?
- Are there arts studios, music rooms, or other dedicated arts spaces?
- Are there arts field trips and partnerships at each grade level?
Step 2: KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT ARTS EDUCATION
In addition to understanding what goes on in your school, it’s useful to know the regulations governing arts instruction as well as the benefits of arts education. You will strengthen your case by highlighting:
- STUDIES FROM THE FIELD: Be familiar with the key research in support of arts education. Many of these studies are cited in this toolkit.
- REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES: How have the arts changed a child’s life or a school’s atmosphere? Find real-life examples from your child’s school or those nearby.
- STATE & LOCAL LAW: Become familiar with state and city requirements for arts education by visiting your local education department websites
- To build your case, create a fact sheet that highlights key facts and stories. Be prepared to discuss these with parents, teachers, school leaders, elected officials, and others.
Step 3: ENGAGE WITH OTHER PARENTS
Collaboration among parents, teachers, and school and community leaders can create a powerful constituency to advocate for the arts. Join the Parent Association or PTA. Try one or more of these ideas:
- Get an arts line inserted into the PTA/PA budget and/or ask them to support arts partnerships, field trips to museums and performances, or supplies and resources for the classroom.
- Form an arts committee with other parents to look for opportunities to build a strong arts program. A committed team with a focus on arts education can accomplish a lot.
- Encourage parent attendance at student performances or exhibitions by distributing notices in backpacks, setting up robocall is a phone call that uses a computerized autodialer to deliver a pre-recorded message, as if from a robot reminders, and emailing parents.
- Look for parents or teachers who can volunteer to help with scenery for the school play, design flyers, or talk to students about careers in the arts.
Step 4: TALK TO SCHOOL LEADERSHIP
Ongoing communication with school leadership and school board members, can have a postive impact on your child’s education. Organize a group of parents to meet with these leaders. Remember to:
- Keep your message clear and concise and align it with the values of the school or district.
- Identify key issues you want the leaders to support. Be specific about what actions you want them to take.
- Offer your support to their efforts and look for ways to work together to build a stronger arts program.
- Bring along one or two key materials to distribute during the meeting and/or leave behind.
Step 5: RAISE MONEY TO SUPPORT THE ARTS
Raising funds is one crucial way you can help expand arts opportunities offered at your child’s school. Know the district’s fundraising guidelines and collaborate with school leadership on the following:
- Bake sales, raffles, auctions, and other fundraisers are all tried-and-true ways to raise critical dollars.
- Seek out government, corporate, or foundation grants. It’s likely someone you know will have the skills to complete a successful application.
- Ask your elected officials if they have discretionary funding available. Find out the deadline and apply!
- Talk to local businesses about sponsoring an event or donating a percentage of sales to your school. In exchange, recognize their generosity at events and in printed and online materials.
Step 6: BUILD LASTING RELATIONSHIPS
Building relationships with local businesses, local arts and cultural organizations, and elected officials can help with fundraising and in other ways, too. To build strong relationships with these partners:
- Invite elected leaders to attend or participate in school events so they can see firsthand the impact of arts education. They can also help direct funds to your school and move policies that support arts education.
- Ask local businesses or organizations to support your school by donating services, food, or products. Think about how they can assist with printing, catering, or art supplies and materials.
- Get to know local arts and cultural organizations that may offer school programs, discounted tickets, or field trip opportunities.
Create ongoing engagement with all potential partners through traditional and social media.
Step 7: JOIN ONGOING ADVOCACY EFFORTS
Join with local and national advocacy organizations to impact arts education on a broader scale. Americans for the Arts, the National PTA, and The Center for Arts Education are good places to start.
- Be a part of the fight for local, state, and federal funding and policies that support the arts in schools.
- Become a member, sign up for Action Alerts, and offer to volunteer. You could be called upon to email your Member of Congress, testify at hearings, or rally others to action.
- You can help these groups by donating money to support their advocacy!