Advocacy: Proactive, Reactive and Always Present

Advocates in Los Angeles City Hall

 

    

What can a network of 20,000 civically engaged people do to change the way the arts and arts education is valued, supported and made accessible to all in a county of 10 million? 

 

 

 

I am hearing it more: “the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.” That seems to be the case with the battles many of us have been embroiled in for decades. But as advocates who share the vision that access to rich arts and cultural experiences help make cities and school districts better and more prosperous, the glass must remain half full.

Arts for LA’s first online advocacy campaign of 2012 seeks to minimize a proposal by the Los Angeles Unified School District to eliminate its Elementary Arts Program.

Danielle Brazell, Executive Director of Arts for LAThe operative word is “minimize.”  The District, facing a $600 million budget deficit, has to make cuts.  However, stripping education down is not the answer.  

In fact, eliminating arts education will only drive more middle-class parents away from the District, reducing enrollment and leaving an inferior public education system that cannot fulfill its mandate to provide a quality education.  Arts Education is not only core curriculum in California; it’s the barometer of equity in public education.

We are demonstrating widespread support for arts education in LAUSD through an online advocacy campaign that has generated over 1,800 distinct email messages to the Board of Education and Superintendent.  The campaign has been picked up by local media and shared on social media sites, twitter, Facebook etc. Advocates, you are making your voice heard!

However, solely advocating for reduced cuts is not a long-term solution.  California has a revenue problem, and until the State, either through new legislation or through the ballot initiative process, identifies new revenue for school districts, California’s public school system will continue to slide and so will our competitive edge.

As LAUSD grapples with whether or not to put forward another local parcel tax, three proposed state ballot initiatives—Our Children, Our Future, Millionaires Tax and Governor Brown’s Tax Initiative— vie for attention.  Each claims it would restore funding for public education in the Golden State.  While initial polling indicates that Californians are now open to such initiatives, we must also have the discipline to make informed decisions and the political will to act. 

Councilman Paul Krekorian Meeting with Arts LeadersIn the next two months, budget hearings will begin in cities throughout the region.  Although some will fare better than others, advocates must be ready. 

We must remain consistent with our message and diligent in making our voice heard.  We must keep our focus on retaining arts programs infrastructure in schools and communities. We must be able to take action when prompted, meet with our local public officials, and respond vigorously to news stories at every opportunity. 

The more I do this work, the more confident I become that Los Angeles County advocates have the power to foster great change in our region— and in our state, for that matter. 

As arts and arts education advocates, we are willing to go beyond “don’t cut” to move into the solution. That means we are proactive, responsive and ready to identify opportunities that can bring us closer to our goal of a region in which arts and culture is valued and accessible by all.

Advocates, I’m in awe of your tenacity and your ability to mobilize.  Here’s what we want you to do:

Danielle Brazell, Executive Director of Arts for LA-     Take action on the LAUSD Campaign – Click here.

-     Forward information about the campaign to your networks and ask them to take action.

-     Tell us your story:  In the comment section below, tell us how the arts have either saved your life or the life of someone you love.

-     Participate in online forums, social media sites and comment vigorously about the importance of arts education for all.

Let’s leverage the power of our 20,000-strong network to position arts and arts education as a powerful solution to many of our region’s most pressing issues.

Onward!

- Danielle Brazell