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Community-Led Arts Education Models in the U.S.

During the fall of 2012, the Herzfeld Foundation provided funding for the Public Policy Forum to conduct preliminary research regarding the potential for implementing a new community-wide model for providing arts education in Milwaukee. This brief summarizes our observations to date. Its purpose is to illustrate the current context for community-wide arts education efforts as a way to inform discussions, planning, and future decisions related to the shape of a potential arts education framework in Milwaukee, should the community desire to undertake such an effort.

First, we provide a brief summary of the literature regarding the link between arts education and impacts on participants such as educational student outcomes and social and emotional benefits. While the research literature cannot establish a robust causal link, it does lend some support for several theories under which arts and education reform advocates might work.

Next, we analyze Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) spending on arts education over the past decade. In particular, we find that spending on arts specialists within the school system has been decreasing over time, whereas spending on partnerships with external community-based arts education providers through the Partnership for the Arts and Humanities has been on the rise. In light of this reality, if arts education proponents in Milwaukee are concerned about providing equitable access to arts learning for all MPS students, it appears they will need to concentrate efforts on engaging, coordinating, and monitoring the offerings of these external providers. We note that MPS has made a goal of increasing the number of art and music specialty teachers in the schools over the next few years.