Art programs worth keeping in Michigan schools

Art teachers and art students at Creekside Middle School in Zeeland, Mich., are remodeling 100 end tables in every color, shape and size. Some of these designs include mosaics of Van Gogh’s paintings, Captain America memorabilia and breast cancer ribbons. Their goal is to auction off these tables to raise $10,000 for the homeless, reports MLive.

The students have worked on their projects during art class and after school on Tuesdays. It is estimated at least 200 students are part of this ongoing project as well as about 12 teachers. The tables have each been designed, sanded, painted and covered in mosaic glass.

Tamara Draper, the art teacher who came up with “100 table project,” has single-handedly proven that art programs are worth keeping in Michigan schools.

It is no secret that many art programs across Michigan have been disappearing. Unfortunately, cities like Lansing, Kalamazoo, Detroit, Flint and Jackson have already made negative changes to their middle school and high school art programs.

However, despite what a lot of people believe, the appropriation budget for Michigan K-12 education has been increased by more than a billion dollars since 2011 under Governor Snyder. Although this amount has helped, districts are not receiving enough money to pay for the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement system, causing district deficits across the state.

The budget cuts we hear about are actually to the federal per-pupil foundation grant. This grant was cut by $470 per pupil by the federal government from 2009 to 2012. Another problem schools are facing are the decreasing number of students attending public schools.

These budgeting issues are the reason art programs are getting cut. If a school cannot afford to pay their staff, they have to reevaluate what they can afford to lose. Unfortunately art programs tend to be first on the list.

Art programs are important to the learning environment. Cutting art programs could be devastating to students who depend on creative expression in learning. Guoping Zhao, a professor at Oakland State University who researches philosophies of education, explained why art is so important to schools. “Art ... takes students beyond where they are and what they have, and teaches them to appreciate and respect difference and diversity," Zhao said. "In this sense, art is an essential part of moral and ethical education.”

Coming full circle, art students refurbishing and selling items is a great incentive to keep these art programs alive in the time of budget changes. Michigan art teachers should all look into including a way to help their communities through art. If more art programs across the state were involved in projects such as this, Michigan school districts might be less inclined to make changes to their art programs.

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