Letter: Shortchanging our kids – and ourselves – on art education




To the Editor:

By approving a budget for Ridgefield Public Schools that maintains reduced staffing for art instruction at the elementary level, the Board of Education showed a lack of leadership on a critical issue. Instead of exercising independent judgement and advocating for the many community members who raised their voices, the BOE rubber stamped the wrongheaded recommendation of the RPS administration.

Studies show that early art education has remarkable impacts on students’ academic, social, and emotional outcomes. While paying lip service to this widely supported view, public comments from RPS (RP, Feb. 9, 2023, A10) were an inartful dodge of basic questions: why isn’t it a priority to restore funding for full-time art teachers in each of our elementary schools? Why should we settle for art instruction to our youngest students that doesn’t meet minimum state guidelines? Why can’t we receive an honest assessment of how Ridgefield’s investment in art education compares to neighboring districts?

Not only does this shortsighted approach shortchange our kids for whom art instruction is core to learning, communicating, and interacting with the world around them. It shortchanges all of us, proud residents of Connecticut’s first cultural district, by delivering a mixed message about whether we value art as an essential educational priority or are satisfied simply to check the box and circulate platitudes. Districts across the state provide every elementary school student art instruction every week. The Superintendent and BOE have provided only weak excuses for why Ridgefield can’t manage to do the same for our kids.

No document embodies our values as a community more clearly than the RPS budget. Blaming predecessors and brushing off benchmarks is not an acceptable response from those entrusted with setting educational priorities for Ridgefield families. We must hold RPS leadership, the Board of Education, and ourselves, to a higher standard.

Wyatt Lipman 

Eustis Lane