Letter: Art ed is sorely undersupported in Ridgefield school budget

To the Editor:

Ridgefield is a town that prides itself on its outstanding arts institutions and school system. Yet, art education is sorely under-supported in the current school budget and curriculum at the elementary and middle school levels, with half the staffing and instructional hours than those afforded to other essential subject areas.

National leaders agree that art is a core subject that should receive the same level of resources as others. The Every Student Succeeds Act, signed in 2015, includes the arts in its definition of a “well-rounded education.” The National Art Education Association provides further guidance on how this should play out, beginning with a strong education at the elementary level, providing equal access for students of all abilities and backgrounds, and outlining high school graduation requirements, stating they “are predicated on all elementary and middle school students having access to a comprehensive, sequential visual art education program taught by effective educators who are certified/licensed in visual art.”

The current proposed Ridgefield school budget proposes three art teachers to be shared amongst the six elementary schools (about 625 students per teacher). At the middle school level, 2.7 teachers are proposed for the two schools (about 200 students per teacher). Other essential subject areas have double or more the staff and instructional minutes.

As we embark on the 2021-22 budget cycle, I call on the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Board of Education, and our superintendent to find a way to support a quality art education for our students from the elementary level through to graduation.

Our children deserve the same commitment to a quality art experience we enjoy in our bountiful arts organizations. Citizens who agree are invited to sign my petition “Quality Art Education for Ridgefield Public Schools” on gopetition.com or local Facebook pages.

Sarah Hanley, 19 Clearview Drive, Feb. 4