[Editorial] The Art of Funding

Without guaranteed arts funding, the essence of our school hangs in the balance

Jenna Lee, Print Managing Editor

The Education Law Center paints a dire picture of education funding in Florida. In 2019, their report on state school funding gave Florida an F* in all categories regarding school funding and ranked Florida 45 out of 50 nationally. 

This is particularly worrisome for our school. Despite being a magnet high school with expensive arts programs to maintain, we don’t get any special treatment. Funding for public schools is not determined by the types of programs they offer but by enrollment. 

The school is given a set budget by the district, and it is up to administration to decide where that money goes. According to Principal Blake Bennett, 80-85% of our school’s nearly 10 million dollar budget goes to general resources, not specifically the arts. 

Consequently, the school has had to look to other means of supporting the arts where state funding lacks. 

The Dreyfoos School of the Arts Foundation picks up this slack by raising $1-2 million a year. The foundation provides hundreds of thousands of dollars for artists in residence, improved art facilities, guest artists, and updated equipment for all of the departments. 

It was because of the foundation that the communications department could get iPads for their journalism classes and that Meyer Hall could be renovated in the summer of 2022. As director of the foundation Dr. Chris Snyder put it, the foundation is the “lifeblood” of our arts programs. 

But this system may not be sustainable forever. The bulk of funds from the foundation come from philanthropists and independent donors. The foundation can only continue to raise funds if the community continues to give.

Dr. Snyder explained that one of the main difficulties is the competition in Palm Beach County for donors. According to Dr. Snyder, it’s hard to attract people to donate to our school instead of the 6,000+ nonprofits in the county.

Though the foundation tries to meet all of the requests of the department deans, according to Dr. Snyder, a wishlist for a single department can range from a couple hundred to over a million dollars. 

In order to ensure that our arts programs are not exclusively reliant on the work of the foundation, we need to increase arts education funding statewide. ”

A 2019 study by the Brookings Institute writes that arts education not only improves test scores but reduces disciplinary infractions and increases compassion for others. Moreover, a study done by the Frontiers in Psychology Journal in 2022 found that arts education positively and significantly affects students’ psychological wellbeing.

We must never take the quality of our arts departments for granted.”

It would be a disservice to our school and our community to do nothing to ensure the security of our programs. It is imperative that we act to preserve the programs that allow us to freely exercise our passions.

In an important step towards this, this past fall, voters in Palm Beach County approved the continuation of the 2018 tax referendum, which sets aside property tax money to education, and one of the listed areas of funding is the arts. 

Though this is undoubtedly essential to arts programs around the county, it does not mean we can grow complacent. This referendum only allows for 750 fine arts teaching positions to be funded across the county, not nearly enough to compensate every school’s needs. 

There are a couple ways to ensure more is done. First is to continue to support initiatives such as the referendum and support politicians who prioritize education funding.

Besides policies, we must also spread awareness. Making it known to those with power that students truly care about and benefit from the arts is essential to producing any progress. Speaking at school board meetings and emailing your local representatives about your art can help to get our perspectives shared. 

There is a reason that we are able to have the opportunities, the concerts, the events, the tournaments, the galleries, the guest speakers, and the amazing staff that we do. Unfortunately, money is the root of it all, and it’s money we have to continue to fight for. 

*In the study, grades were assigned using a curve in which states are evaluated based on how much they deviate from the average state funding in the nation. States that received an “F” were two-thirds standard deviation below the mean.