Yes, Wake County schools Superintendent Jim Merrill will have a challenging job selling the school budget he’ll present to commissioners Tuesday. The amount itself, estimated at $1.4 billion in county, state and federal money, is mind-boggling.
But even with the pressures on to hold down spending – and the system got a needed extra boost of $44.6 million last year – let’s hope that Merrill includes more funding for the arts, from performing to painting and all other forms, for a priority item in his proposal. Bill Fletcher, a long-time board member, is the advocate on the board (only one of them, presumably) who believes that the arts enrich education, and in fact are part of it. Fletcher cites research showing the value of an arts curriculum as a way to encourage “collaboration and cooperation” among students.
The schools have suffered when it comes to arts funding. It’s less than half of what it was in 1999, which is rather shocking considering that the system is much larger. What the system and schools do, of course, is try to raise money to make up what they’ve lost, or get what they think they need.
As Fletcher notes, the arts help the educational mission. A student who may not be as proficient in traditional academic studies as others could find inspiration in the arts, painting or plays, for example, which would in turn encourage that student to work harder in core subjects.