LPRVF art grant good investment for students

Published 7:00 am Friday, October 16, 2015

We would like to say a public “thank you” to the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation for their generous arts grant to South Side Elementary School.
It’s well known that despite small classroom budgets provided by districts, teachers generally buy classroom supplies. Those supplies range from inexpensive decorations to costly teaching aids. Art supplies, as any artist or art teacher will attest, are not cheap. However, if a district is to provide worthwhile arts instruction, they are every bit as necessary as science textbooks. But of course, school districts must buy science textbooks according to state law. Art supplies are a different matter.
There is a lot of talk in Mississippi these days about school funding, but arts programs across the nation are not much different than the ones here at home. They’re all underfunded.
This week National Public Radio reported on an art teacher at a public high school in Sherman Oaks, California who spends between $300 to $400 of her own money each year on extra art supplies. As the teacher in the NPR story explained, she can’t expect her students to make good art without good equipment. Her choice, therefore, is to offer an inferior experience and education or spend her own money. Locally, teachers face the same dilemma.
But the grant does more than just lessen the economic burden on teachers. We understand that STEM education is important, and our economy depends on students who understand math and science, but art is important too, if in different ways. Our economy might not depend on the arts (although what great city does not also have great art?) but art can capture a student’s interest and attention in school in ways math and science do not. Each student should feel they are good at something and the arts offer an opportunity for a child to master and excel in something that is neither academic nor physical.
With their grant money, the LPRVF will allow a child to do something good, maybe better than someone else. And that’s a lesson not enough kids get in school.

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