Burbank Advocacy Year in Review

Advocacy Team (if applicable): 

At the May 26th Arts for All Progress Report meeting, Burbank Arts Ed Advocacy Team Co-Chair Alexandra Helfrich gave an impressive presentation detailing the great work of the Burbank team this year.  Her speech is below.

"I’d like to share what we learned this year during our partnership with Arts For All.

Burbank District Arts Coordinator, Peggy Flynn, worked with Tara Stafford from Arts for LA to identify a “Leadership Team” for the Arts Advocacy Group. This group worked together in gathering community members, local art providers, school groups, artists, teachers, school district administrators and board members and parents. All were invited to the first meeting of the Arts Advocacy Team at the Cartoon Network with a standing room only crowd of more than 70 supporters.

The group hit the ground running and immediately identified arts advocacy goals using the Arts for All Strategic Plan as the guide. By using that approach, we were able to work in alignment with the vision of the Burbank Unified School District. It was a top priority of the team to ensure that all advocacy campaigns were done in a positive manner, with the purpose of supporting the district in supporting the arts.

The Advocacy Team set immediate goals, among them:

1. Advocate to maintain the arts coordinator position and the two elementary music teaching positions for the 2010-11 school year.

2. Ensure that BUSD policies preserve students’ equal access to Visual and Performing Arts classes. Including:

i. Restoration of PE credit for performing arts classes that meet PE standards to free up students schedules for other opportunities.

We formed subcommittees and began implementing the plan.

I worked with the School Board and district leadership relationships subcommittee. With budget cuts looming on the horizon, we knew that the Arts Coordinator and elementary music teachers could be at risk for being cut. Members of the Arts Advocacy Team attended every school district open meeting regarding budget revisions, demonstrating a commitment to understand all of the financial challenges facing the administration.

Luckily in Burbank, we have the full support of the school board in continuing Arts for All. They all understand the value of equitable Arts Education. During a time when everyone in the district was concerned with the reduction of funding, we wanted to share good news and to give the Board sound financial reasons to retain these positions before cuts were proposed.

Advocacy Team member Barbara Miller worked with a list of grants and donations generated by the district Arts Coordinator and created a simple power point package detailing the fiscal impact of A4A over the past 4 years.

The Power Point told the story of how funding for the arts in Burbank has increased incrementally each year, beginning with $104,000 the first year, and concluding with $486,000 earned this year. Much of the income was realized in services and in-kind contributions, further developing community partnerships. Without the district arts coordinator we would have been ineligible and unable to receive these donations.

We shared the power point during public comment at a February 4th School Board meeting. We were able to illustrate that between 2006 and 2010, A4A generated $844,000 in income to BUSD. But… A few weeks later, the first list of proposed positions to be cut was released. And like all of our neighboring districts, the arts coordinator was listed as a potential cut. The advocacy team launched a letter writing campaign using the Arts for LA website and generated more than 100 letters to the school board and district administrators within 48 hours. Jamie Butterworth gathered letters of support from distinguished arts partners such as Warner Bros, Center Theatre Group, the Getty Center, The Music Center Education Division, Woodbury University, Cal State Northridge, Burbank Creative Arts Center, and others.

During a packed and overflowing school board meeting, during which the board would approve the proposed list of positions to be cut, the arts advocacy team kept our comments to a minimum. We reminded the School Board of the fiscal benefits of the arts coordinator position and the overall quality of nationally recognized arts programs in our schools. We explained that the district couldn’t afford to cut the Arts Coordinator and risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in arts education support or diminishing the quality of education. Jamie shared a powerful letter of support from Burbank Arts for All Coach, Peggy Burt. While speaking she asked the audience, representing many different interest groups, if those in support of arts education would stand. Each and every person rose. After listening to public testimony, the school board elected to remove the arts coordinator from the cuts list.

Through this experience the Arts Advocacy Team learned a lot about what worked for our community. We learned to market the value of arts education in different ways to reach different audiences at different times. We learned to support our advocacy position with facts, studies, and education code. We learned that we need to work harder to reach under represented parts of the Burbank community.

Thus far, the elementary Music program has been restored for the upcoming school year. The School Board has reviewed the possibility of restoring PE credit to physically demanding performing arts classes. The District and teachers have agreed that they would like this to happen. Solutions have been drafted and the outcome looks positive.

On May 17th the Arts Advocacy Team met for the last time for this school year. New goals were identified for the next school year, among them:

  • Sustain Arts programs and teachers for the 2011/2012 school year
  • Meet with leadership from other district programs, including English Language learners, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community and others and find ways to be mutually supportive.
  • Provide Parcel Tax campaign support
  • Educate and inform secondary school counselors about arts opportunities
  • Meet with all candidates for school board in the upcoming election
  • Consider a Plan to implement an Arts and Entertainment Career Fair

Burbank has a committed group of Arts in Education Supporters. By working with Tara, Arts for LA and Arts for All, we received guidance to organize, focus and work towards supporting the goals of the Arts for All Plan in an active and positive manner. The strategies we learned were powerful, and will continue to support the Team as it moves forward.

Thank you."


To get involved with the Burbank Arts Ed Advocacy Team, click here.