Budget Cuts Affecting Arts Education: How Orange County Public Schools Cope

On February 14, 2011, President Barack Obama proposed his Budget Summary for the fiscal year of 2012. In that summary, the President displayed how he would like to turn the education system around with the funding needed. Obama is quoted as acknowledging the necessity, “to not just recover from yesterday’s economic recession, but to take bold action to ensure America’s success in tomorrow’s global economic competition.”

In 2012, $242 million dollars was expected to go the new Effective Teaching and Learning for a Well-rounded Education program. This means a national nine percent increase for all current “CR level programs,” or an increase in $20 million dollars. This increase will affect programs that aim to “strengthen the teaching and learning of the arts,” and other programs.

Budget cuts in the Education Department of America have been affecting the nation since 2009. Over the years since 2007, the national budget for education has been cut severely. A decrease of 1.75% in the national budget of education showed a pitfall of more than $1 billion for public schools across the states.

As art and music classes are always the first to go, these budget cuts have led to many students being left without any form of arts education in their school curriculum.

The school district of Philadelphia, PA has been having major trouble with grabbing hold of the funds needed to fill the gap of a $304 million dollar budget deficit.

This year, the Obama administration gave 45 million dollars meant for the debt forgiveness of Philadelphia. Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania had been holding the release of the 45 million until Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union agreed to take a 10-20 percent pay cut.

The debt of the Philadelphia district has resulted in nearly 4,000 layoffs in teachers, administrators and staff. There are 1 in 4 schools in Philadelphia that do not have a full time music instructor.

It is encouraged for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to agree the requirements of Gov. Corbett so that 1,000 employees of the district can be rehired.

School districts such as the Orange County Public School (OCPS) district of Central Florida have been fortunate in maintaining accessibility of the arts to public school children. As of October 12, 2012, there is a reported 184 schools in Orange County, FL teaching over 183 thousand students. The average operating revenue per student is $6,918.65.

OCPS Budget 2012-2013

For the 2012-2013 OCPS budget, $1.6 billion dollars has been given to the General Fund, which includes salaries for teachers and supplies and equipment for students. The funds for the OCPS district budget are collected majorly through state and local funding sources with little to no help at all from the federal government.

Scott T. Evans has been the Orange County, FL school district Fine Arts Coordinator for over three years.

Scott T. Evans has been the Fine Arts Coordinator for the Orange County, FL school district for over three years. Photo by Lawren Chandler.

Scott T. Evans, Fine Arts Coordinator for the public school district of Orange County, FL, stated that Orange County did not get hit as hard as some of the other counties in Florida after the budget cuts went through about five years ago. He said that Orange county students are very fortunate to have at least one type of arts teacher, be it music or visual arts, in each school.

Evans manages a group of resource teachers who work directly with the arts teachers of the Orange County school district. “The resource teachers are there to help the teachers that are in the district to help them in their classrooms; help them become better teachers, help them improve what they do,” he said. According to Evans, Orange County has 530+ arts teachers in the district.

Video produced by Lawren Chandler.

In a report by WFTV Channel 9 news, OCPS district administrators estimate a massive cut back of $70 million dollars from the educational budget in 2014, which also may have negative effects on art and music programs. Approximately 350 Orange County teachers were let go in 2012 and this year 600 teachers have been “put on notice.” Administrators still are not certain of the 2014 budget outcome.

So what does this mean for Orange County students? Will the predicted budget cuts put students at a disadvantage?

Neuropsychologist, Lindsay Shaw, Ph.D., says that children practicing the arts can benefit from the connections they make in the relationships with other people among many other skills.

“If we look at it from a psycho-social developmental standpoint, [the arts] helps children develop more autonomy, it helps a child to develop trust in other people, it helps them to develop confidence. Overall as an adult they’ll be more confident, they’ll be more of a self-starter,” confirmed Shaw.

Lisa Phillips, the author of The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in an Increasingly Right Brain World, says children can learn many skills needed to help them transcend into a successful adulthood. These vitally needed character traits are confidence, decision-making, focus, receiving constructive feedback, non-verbal communication, perseverance, collaboration, dedication, accountability, and of course, creativity.

In a survey also conducted by La’Wrenne.com, How the Arts Impacts Lives, the audience were asked a wide array questions, including multiple-choice and open-ended answers.

The majority of survey takers:

  • Felt that the arts had impacted them positively as a child
  • Experienced direct skills from the arts such as heightened creativity and/or confidence
  • Had dance, music, or visual arts as a child growing up in school.
  • Felt that their children were positively effected by the arts in school
  • Felt that school Funding budget cuts are unfair and should be corrected

The video below is a compilation of the thoughts from three industry experts: musician and composer, Keith Lay, graphic design teacher, Jackie Chism and producer, engineer, and songwriter, Veit Renn. They tell all on why the arts are so important for the development of children. Video produced by Lawren Chandler.

Compilation of Studies on the Effects of the Arts

Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development is a copyrighted study from 2002 that picked the most recent studies of the time involving the exploration of the effects of the arts on children. This compilation of over 50 studies included summaries of findings in the subjects of dance, drama, music, visual arts, and multi arts.

Wooden art piece displayed at the Crealdé School of Art. Photo by Lawren Chandler

Wooden art piece displayed at the Crealdé School of Art. Photo by Lawren Chandler


Study Name: The Effects of Creative Dance Instruction on Creative and Critical Thinking of Seventh Grade Female Students in Seoul, Korea.

In this study, 78 seventh grade girls were instructed to take dance lessons in a either creative or traditional style. These girls had not had any previous training in dance prior to the 15 sessions of dance class.

The classes were 45 minutes for each session and were given twice a week for eight weeks. The creative dance classes were designed and taught by the researcher Lois Hetland. Different teachers designed the traditional classes, taught in three five-week blocks of modern, ballet and Korean traditional dance.

The progress of the girls was measured by two “pre- and post-tests” tests: The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking to measure creative thinking and Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices to measure critical thinking. In addition, the girls gave three writing samples, after weeks five, ten and fifteen.

The results showed that multiple hypotheses were supported by the study. The girls’ creative and critical thinking were moderately affected after fifteen sessions of dance training.


Study Name: The Effects of Role Playing on Written Persuasion: An Age and Channel Comparison of Fourth and Eighth Graders

In a middle class suburban public school district, 84 fourth graders and 70 eighth graders were randomly divided into three groups. The first group participated in persuasive role-playing guided by researcher James S. Catterall.  The students, divided by grade level, practiced in pairs with each taking turns being the listener and the persuader.  For more than 35 minutes, pairs in each grade level practiced different scenarios all at the same time while their role-play activity was audiotaped. The pairs were instructed to act out three scenes persuading their principal to:

  1. “Have a regular student party.”
  2. “Let students decide all of what they would study.”
  3. “Make a change in the cafeteria.”

After the role-play persuasion activity, each student wrote a letter to their actual principal about the issue they had to act out.

The second group practiced the art of persuasion through instruction on persuasive writing. “In parallel fashion,” these students received 35 minutes of lecture on persuasive writing before completing three different writing assignments over a span of five weeks. Catterall also provided the lecture on persuasive writing instruction.

Bronze art piece of cutout birds shown in the Crealdé School of Art. Photo by Lawren Chandler.

The third group received no concentrated instructions.

The study showed that both grade levels created more persuasive claims during role-play than just by sole writing technique.

As a resulting factor, “role-playing in partners is more effective than a lecture with examples when it comes to impacting persuasive letter writing.”


Study Name: Enhanced Learning of Proportional Math Through Music Training and Spatial-Temporal Training

Researcher Ellen Winner conducted a study using a spatial-temporal math video game wherein students manipulated shapes and objects to answer questions.  For example, if one shape was half the size of the other, a question may be: how many of the smaller shapes would it take to fill in the bigger shape? The game also asked students to make mental visualizations of certain shapes, such as visualizing a shape in half. Winner engineered the game to “train understanding of the spatial basis of fractions and ratios.”

One hundred and thirty-six second grade students from an inner-city school were divided in three groups for this study. One group was trained in lesson with the math video game and also piano lessons for one hour twice a week for 61 sessions in total. The piano lessons taught the second grades how to read music and to play simple melodies.

The second group of students were also trained on the math video game. However, instead of piano lessons, the second study group coupled their training with computerized English language lessons that involved studying grammar and sentence structure. The lessons for this group were held twice a week, totaling 42 one-hour sessions.

Bronze sculpture of a heart covered with reptiles in the Crealdé School of Art sculpture garden. Photo by Lawren Chandler

Bronze sculpture of a heart covered with reptiles in the Crealdé School of Art sculpture garden. Photo by Lawren Chandler

The third group of this study was not given any type of concentrated training.

The results showed that the group that trained with piano lessons and the math video game scored 15 percent higher than the group trained with the math video game and English lessons. Both groups scored significantly higher than the group that had no focused training.

Visual Arts

Study Name: The Arts, Language, and Knowing: An Experimental Study of the Potential of the Visual Arts for Assessing Academic Learning by Language Minority Students

In four different world history classes taught by two different teachers, 98 sixth grade students were assigned to two different groups at random. Each group studied ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia for four weeks each. After each part of the study, the students learning progression was tested by either writing and drawing or just writing alone. Students were asked to recall vital characteristics of each region—events, people, historic objects—and to describe why these things were of importance.

Researcher Ellen Winner scored responses based on “content knowledge” and “interdisciplinary knowledge.” As a result, various types of responses were found in the writing and drawing portion of the study. Students used their knowledge to either write their response and then sketch, sketch and then write their response, or to only use illustrations.

From the study, “students revealed more history knowledge when their knowledge is assessed through a combination of writing plus drawing than when it is assessed through writing alone.”




Jan Hurt, Office Manager for Crealdé School of Art recalls experiences she has seen in working with art students in her time at Creadlé. Photo by Lawren Chandler.

Jan Hurt, the Registrar and Office Manager at Creadlé School of Art has many experiences on how the magic of a healthy arts education can touch a child’s life. She stated, “introducing children to art as young as possible is vitally important because the younger the child, the more uninhibited their imagination and creativity.”

Hurt recalled a time when a father pleaded for Crealdé to create another young children’s summer camp class for his son. The father had attended Crealdé when he was a young child and was desperate for his son to have the same experience that he had when he was young. Hurt continued, “if you can instill in them a love of art while their creativity and imagination knows no bounds, then you’ve hooked them for life.”


Please check out our Twitter Feed List below to stay informed on the whereabouts of the arts for children everywhere:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *