For the arts lovers who want become arts fighters, many of you are probably saying, “Let’s fight to keep arts in our public schools! Umm…wait…how do we actually do that?”
Indeed, wanting to fight for a cause can be an awesome feeling. However, knowing where to get started can be daunting.
The best way to join the battle to keep arts education in schools is by getting involved with your local school board. Believe it or not, school boards are one of the purist forms of democracy we have in America.
Citizens of a community or district have direct access to school board members. That’s pretty major when you consider the subjects at hand:
1. Our children, our greatest resource
2. Education, the great equalizer in this country
In general, the responsibilities of a local school board include maintaining the local school system structure; developing curriculum; meeting both state and federal standards for public schools; approving the school district’s budget; establishing educational objectives; being involved in the administration of the school district for accountability purposes; and serving as an open forum for the citizens’ input regarding education, reflecting the values and culture of their community.
Now that you know a little about how local school boards operate, how do you get involved?
Here are some really great resources to help you out:
Webinars: If you’re looking to learn how to use your local school board as a primary audience for your advocacy efforts, you should check out our upcoming webinar, Understanding School Boards’ Role in Arts Education, which is set for March 22 at 3:00 p.m. EDT. You may also want to view our previous webinar, Making an Impact on Local Arts Education—Testifying Before Boards of Education.
Websites: State alliances for arts education are a great resource. For example, the California Alliance for Arts Education website is full of tips for learning how to work with your school board, especially presentation tips and a “how to bring an elected official to your school” checklist. You might also find their interview with Arts Education Council Co-Chair Victoria Plettner-Saunders useful as well. Another website worth checking out is Arts for LA, an organization that will be featured during the March 22 webinar. Additionally, if you want to gain a better understanding of how the school board system works or to connect with your state school board officials, go to the National School Boards Association.
Toolkits: NAMM Foundation has a comprehensive toolkit with customizable presentations, research pages, and talking points. The Kennedy Center also has an advocacy toolkit that includes a section about building relationships with school board members.
Action: For those already familiar with arts advocacy through local school systems, you can take a pledge on the Keep the Arts in Public Schools Cause. This is an opportunity for arts advocates to promise that they will testify at their local school board meeting on behalf of arts education.
So, now that you are armed with information, join the fight to keep the arts in our schools. As always, feel free to post comments and questions below.