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 New Initiative Aims To Provide Arts Education To Every Student In San Diego County Public Schools

Educators, artists, philanthropists and business leaders gathered tonight for the launch of Arts Empower San Diego, a new initiative poised to give school districts the access to strategic planning, professional development and the array of other tools necessary to facilitate arts experiences for all students every day. At its core, Arts Empower is about helping school districts think about their arts program, figure out what they have and where they want to expand, and what resources are available to sustain/expand high-quality arts education programs. ​​​

Arts Empower is the culmination of a year-long, county-wide planning effort developed to provide every student in San Diego County public schools with a well-rounded education that includes the arts. The initiative is the result of a partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), The San Diego Foundation, Young Audiences, The California Arts Project and numerous other education, community and business stakeholders.

“Visual and performing arts can have a profound impact on students in other curricular areas, and in the rest of their life,” said County Superintendent of Schools Randy Ward. “Arts Empower San Diego will help school districts take advantage of the benefits of arts education by incorporating arts into everything else they’re doing to give students the tools to think critically and creatively in a 21st century global economy.”

Arts education has suffered as education budgets have gotten smaller and schools have been forced to shift resources to maintain other programs. In California, arts education is mandated, yet only 11% of public schools are meeting state goals for arts instruction.

Bob Kelly, President and CEO of The San Diego Foundation​, congratulated the members of the Arts Empower San Diego collaborative. “The very idea of engaging each of San Diego County’s 42 school districts in arts education planning is bold and audacious. But, a bold and audacious spirit is exactly what is needed to ensure that every child, in every classroom, in every school, receives a well-rounded education inclusive of the arts.”

With leadership from the San Diego County Office of Education, participating districts will be provided coaches trained in strategic planning for the writing of arts plans as well as assistance in implementing them. SDCOE will offer professional development to district administrators, teachers, art partners and parents in conjunction with The California Arts Project and Arts Education Resource Organization San Diego.

“These efforts will be in vain if the plans merely sit on the shelf,” noted Ward. “That’s why the County Office of Education is committing resources to make Arts Empower sustainable. We believe, and our partner organizations believe, this is a worthwhile investment in the county’s 500,000 public school students.”

SDCOE will assist in evaluating arts program effectiveness, and will partner with other Arts Empower agencies to advocate for resources to support the strategic plans. Districts, working closely with local, state and national stakeholders, must commit to an ongoing process of teacher recruitment and retention while maintaining existing funding and acquiring new sources of revenue.