Organization Endorsement Form: #ArtsAreEssential in NYC Schools
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You may be contacted at the email address you provide with updates and additional actions related to the Roundtable's ongoing advocacy efforts. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach to out to Executive Director, Kim Olsen at

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Honorable Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza,

We write to you in friendship and gratitude, as together we navigate these challenging waters, and with the sincere hope that you designate arts education as an essential part of the curriculum for public school students this year.

You have both publicly spoken about the importance of arts curricula for our students in the past—you know that it is essential. Yet, as schools grapple with a year of remote or blended learning, many are missing this essential piece of their curriculum.

There are three related reasons for this inequity:

First, with schools now open, a courageous and important milestone, arts teachers are being reassigned to teach non-arts subjects. Without thousands of additional teachers to staff in-person and remote classes per social distancing guidelines, the arts are disappearing from classrooms across the city.

Cultural institutions face nothing short of an extinction event, with long red lines through their budgets and deep uncertainty about when in-person patronage can resume again. Our city’s cultural organizations, both of international renown and deep local impact, depend on city contracts to sustain them especially in crisis.

In the 2018-2019 school year, the majority of New York City Department of Education schools (84%) partnered with at least one cultural organization to supplement the lack of full-time certified arts teachers.

Now, in partnership with certified arts teachers, our cultural organizations are ready and able to support schools with remote learning in what could be a crucial lifeline for them and our city’s youth, but the second and third issues—delays in contract approvals and unconfirmed arts education budgets for the current school year at the school and central levels—are preventing them from being used to their full potential.

As our city’s 1.1 million school children log-in from home this fall, and parents struggle to manage balancing the role of remote employee and teacher’s assistant, keeping students engaged will be more challenging, and more critical, than ever.

Cultural organizations have qualified Teaching Artists ready to support this engagement, but many are seeing their contracts and services discontinued just when their skills are most needed.

The Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) outlines that the arts are a critical component of a child’s education; in recent COVID-19 guidance on in-person instruction, the New York State Department of Health also notes that arts “must be prioritized”, and for good reason:

Students need ways to cope and make sense of the world around them. The arts support social emotional learning, increase engagement and attendance, develop agency, and deliver moments of happiness and healing. They are a crucial part of the supportive environment framework.

Let us not take the city’s budget constraints out on our students and their future. The 70% cut to arts education programs is stripping away resources for young New Yorkers from lower-income households, who have already borne the weight of this crisis. As students risk falling behind in school and missing out on opportunities to socialize with classmates, they will be hardest hit by the pandemic in the long run.

The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable serves the arts and culture community. Our member organizations enhance and fill gaps in arts education in a long-standing partnership with the DOE, to ensure that every child has access to quality arts learning.

We ask that you make it clear that Arts Are Essential. On behalf of our membership and NYC’s arts in education community at-large, we are calling on you—our Chancellor and our Mayor—to:

1) Ensure that everyone—from superintendents, to principals, teachers, and the administrative staff that deals with budgeting and contracts—understands that arts instruction must continue as part of every child’s academic program;
2) Maintain certified arts teachers and ensure that they are assigned to teach in their licensed artistic discipline;
3) Give written assurance that no amendments will be needed to existing MTAC contracts, issue clarified guidance on procurement for arts education services, and provide a timeline for when the Panel on Educational Policy will resume MTAC approvals so that cultural organizations can renew their expiring contracts with the DOE;
4) Confirm arts education budgets for the 2020-2021 school year at the school and central levels, allowing principals to allocate resources for arts learning.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Jennifer DiBella, Board Co-Chair, NYC Arts in Education Roundtable
Sobha Kavanakudiyil, Board Co-Chair, NYC Arts in Education Roundtable
Kimberly Olsen, Executive Director, NYC Arts in Education Roundtable

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