When budgets are cut, arts education is often the first thing to go. In fact, nearly four million elementary kids attend schools without art classes.
Primo is one of these students.
The nine-year-old's story is captured in I Am Education: Kids Tell All, a five-part video series about the state of public education in America. In the videos, we hear from the actual kids whose futures are at stake.
"I like being creative," Primo says in the video, "but sometimes school encourages people to be the same."
A perfect day for him would include painting, drawing, and creating something beautiful out of something ordinary. In the video, we hear about his creations and learn what an arts program would mean to him.
I recently spoke with Lauren O'Neill, Primo's principal at Odyssey Charter School in Altadena, California, about the devastating budget cuts and what her teachers do to infuse art into their lessons.
She said that before 2008, they had a music teacher, art teacher, and were able to take field trips. "We had a really full and robust program because there were more resources in the state to make that happen. The first amount we had to cut out of our budget in one fell swoop was $350,000."
Despite the devastating cuts, she says, Odyssey teachers integrate as much creative time as possible into their curriculum.
You can do a lot of projects in history and social sciences that are creative, she says. They also weave in arts in terms of "writing stories, reading poetry, and writing poetry."
Parent volunteers have been a blessing at the school as well. "I have parents who are musicians and bring music into the classroom," O'Neill says.
Art for Primo, and many other kids in America, is a way to express themselves. It also helps them in other subjects.
Margo Lion, co-chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, explains, "Education in the arts is more important than ever. To succeed at school and in the workforce, America’s children need to be creative thinkers and problem solvers. Arts education fosters those skills at a critical time in childhood development."
Nobel laureates in science, for example, are 17 times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter; 12 times as likely to be a poet; and four times as likely to be a musician.