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Budget shortfall threatens arts education in Littleton

There is a big black cloud that is looming over Littleton Public Schools. With an estimated $9 million budget shortfall for the 2010-2011 school year the school board and administrators have some tough decisions to make.

As the number of teachers that will likely be cut trickles down from the board, to the administration, to the teachers, to the students, fear and anxiety has begun to take hold. For those who teach Fine Arts, the students who take Arts classes, and those who truly understand the value of Arts Education, the prospect of cutting teachers leads us to wonder how long the Arts programs will survive in LPS.

Research shows that Arts are important. A recent study by the Colorado Council on the Arts revealed that Creative industries are the fifth largest job sector in our state. Obviously, there are employment opportunities in creative fields. In contrast, the support for the programs at public schools that enable students to pursue carriers in creative fields has begun to wane.

Every class teaches a skill, but few classes, other than those in the arts, teach creativity. Many books have been published in the last decade on the importance of creative thinking. In 2006, Daniel Pink wrote a book called: A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainer’s Will Rule the Future. The book hypothesizes that a shift is coming, soon employers are going to be more interested in a potential employee’s ability to think creatively and collaborate, than concerned with “knowledge” that they gained in “academic” areas of their education. Pink asserts that in the near future, the MFA is going to be regarded more highly than the MBA.

If this is the climate that LPS students will enter upon finishing their K-12 education. Is it fair to chip away the programs that give them the creative skills they will need?

The $9 million in cuts this year will surely change the way the Arts look in some LPS schools, but the $12 million cut that is on the horizon for 2011-2012 may fundamentally change what programs exist in the district. Something has to be done, before it is too late. Unfortunately, exactly what something is unclear. However, letting the school board and individual school administrators know that Littleton tax payers value the arts is a start… so is passing a Mill Levy next November.


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