California Music Educators Association Advocates for Quality Arts Education

“What core academic subject is only taught for one short period once a week for only one semester and then stops?” Good question, and it goes to the heart of the budget debate currently underway in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

After making significant cuts to arts and music education since 2008, and nearly eliminating it two years ago, the school board unanimously approved a measure in fall 2012 to make arts education a “core subject.” After missing a July 2013 deadline for a specific arts budget, school board members presented a draft proposal in late February 2014.

While the L.A. Unified district is increasing spending on arts education by $16 million over the next three years, the proposal indicates it will do so via arts integration and spreading traveling music and arts teachers more thinly to more schools—requiring a cut from full-year music and arts programs to half-year programs. For example, Gerardo Loera, executive director of the district’s Office of Curriculum and Instruction, explained next year the board will spread the district’s 32 instrumental music teachers to twice the number of schools—from 160 to 320—and cut the curriculum to just one semester rather than a full year.

That elicited the good question above from elementary arts teacher Michael Spector, who teaches at five different elementary schools.

Moreover, $9.8 million will be used to hire 101 “arts integration” teachers to show classroom teachers how to integrate art into subjects like math and history. That divides out to about $97,000 per “arts integration” teacher.

Russ Sperling, president of the California Music Educators Association (CMEA), wrote a letter to school board members Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff, saying the proposals were “a step in the wrong direction.” Sperling continuted, “[It] appears as though the district has no desire to provide an education in the arts with quality as a consideration.”

As Sperling told California Public Radio KPCC, CMEA, which represents 7,000 music teachers in the state, “wants the district to instead expand certified arts specialists and use arts integration strategies as supplemental.”

Even the business community has weighed in on LA Unified’s arts education budget. Boeing has donated $3.5 million into arts education, “not because we want to see the next generation of painter or dancer or singer or musician,” said Jim Herr, a senior manager of Global Corporate Citizenship at Boeing. “Those are all wonderful things, but we’re investing because we need those skills in our future workforce. We can teach anybody to write code . . . we don’t need people to just write code, we need people who have creative problem-solving skills . . . creative imagination, those are the skills arts education brings to the table for us”—skills spelled out in NAfME’s new Broader MindedTM campaign, in fact.

Tami Abdollah, “LA Unified Makes Arts Integration a ‘Core Subject’,” KPCC, 9 October 2012.

Mary Plummer, “LA Unified Arts Budget: Most Funds Will Go to ‘Arts Integration’ Teachers,” KPCC, 21 February 2014.

Mary Plummer, “Teachers: LA Schools’ Arts Education Budget ‘a Step in the Wrong Direction’,” KPCC, 26 February 2014.

Catherina Hurlburt, Special Assistant, February 27, 2014. © National Association for Music Education (