Arkansas Law Will Boost Music and Art Education in Elementary Schools

Classic Arts News   Arkansas Law Will Boost Music and Art Education in Elementary Schools
An Arkansas law requires that visual art and music education be offered to students in elementary schools before June 1, 2005, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

The law, passed in 2001, required 40 minutes per week of music or art class by June 2002; the 2005 deadline increases the requirement to one hour.

In addition, the classes must now be taught by certified art or music teachers. Before 2005, they could be taught by volunteers.

The Arts in Education intitiative was the work of Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee when he was the chairman of the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based nonprofit that does research for policymakers.

According to the Democrat-Gazette, Huckabee would like to see such requirements implemented across the country. "Too many educators think of music as being an extracurricular or extraneous activity," he told the paper. "It's a critical part of the education of any child."

There are obstacles to schools meeting the arts education requirement, despite the general approval for the spirit of the law. Certified art and music teachers are not readily available in every school district, and the expense of hiring new teachers is a burden for many schools already struggling to meet minimum teacher salaries.

The hour-long class requirement is also awkward in schools where the day is divided into 40-minute blocks.

Rumors that the Department of Education is considering mandating designated art and music space in every school are also disconcerting some school officials. Jim Rollins, superintendent of the Springdale school district said, "The reality of the challenges have to be taken into consideration as we address this legislation."

Others worry about taking time away from core subjects such as reading and math: the subjects that determine a school's test scores: even though art is supposed to be a core component of the No Child Left Behind legislation.

Tom Kimbrell, superintendent of the North Little Rock school district acknowledged the benefits of arts education, but asked, "Will the benefits of having art and music instruction outweigh the loss of instructional time in those other core academic areas?"

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