December 6, 2021

Live Testimony to Committee on Education

Oversight: Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Arts Instruction, Extracurriculars, and School-Related Social Activities

Delivered by Kimberly Olsen, Executive Director

Thank you Chair Treyger and the Committee on Education for your leadership and commitment to arts education. Thank you to Maria, Trenton, and the entire Office of Arts & Special Projects, who work tirelessly for our young people. My name is Kimberly Olsen, and I am the Executive Director of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable and proud teaching artist working at P396K in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

The Roundtable is a non-profit service organization working to improve and advance arts education in NYC schools and beyond. 

First and foremost, we wish to thank Chancellor Porter for her historic investment in standards-based arts instruction via ARPA Academic Recovery. By prioritizing arts education, the DOE helps ensure our city’s young people have the rigor, encouragement, and inspiration they need to learn and thrive in today’s classroom. 

While we celebrate this step forward, we recognize it is a temporary one. It has been 20 years since the No Child Left Behind Act defined “arts” as a “core academic subject,” and six years since the Every Student Succeeds Act declared the arts as part of a “well-rounded education”. However, in the great city of New York, we have not defined how to sustain arts education for ALL students. 

After this school year, what next? Under-investment in Arts Education in NYC has been recurrent. Prior to COVID-19, 67% of principals noted funding for the arts was generally insufficient. 65% of NYC middle school students were not meeting the state Arts Learning Requirements by the end of their eighth grade year. Currently, there is no requirement that schools spend Arts Supplemental Funding for Fair Student Funding on the arts. 

We seek City Council’s help to make it possible for all students to receive an education they need and deserve. To achieve universal access to arts education, we believe the city must:

  • Work with the DOE to reinstate required funding for arts learning akin to Project Arts.
  • Prioritize funding the Office of Arts & Special Projects Strategic Arts Plan to set us on the path to close the equity gap.
  • Increase accountability by mandating the arts be part of every school’s Comprehensive Education Plan.
  • Establish policy to increase the hiring and availability of certified arts educators, especially those from underrepresented groups. Every school deserves a certified arts teacher. 

While some students may go on to become artists themselves, the lessons they learn in the arts classroom will last them well beyond when the curtain comes down. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Click here for video recording of City Council Oversight Hearing.

Click here to view the briefing paper from the Committee on Education Oversight Hearing (12/6/2021).