LANSING —Arts in Education Week is Sept. 9-15 this year, highlighting the importance of the arts and music in education and for children. To protect existing programs and mandate the creation of these programs where they do not exist, last year state Rep. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) and state Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) introduced House Bill 4349 and Senate Bill 198, respectively, which would require elementary schools to have visual arts and music programs. The arts, which play an essential role in fostering creativity and innovative thinking, are becoming more absent in children’s formative education.
“I benefited from the arts in school, having played the violin for over 40 years in addition to teaching art and architectural history on the collegiate level — all of which started because of my exposure to arts as a child,” Rep. Geiss said. “We have so much clear evidence about the significant, positive impacts made on children’s emotional and intellectual development when art and music classes are a part of their curriculum, so it is unfortunate that continuous underfunding of our public schools has deprived so many kids of that opportunity.”
A report by Americans for the Arts shows that students whose education has been enriched by the arts and music perform better in school and on the SAT. Students who took four years of arts and music average nearly one hundred more points on the SAT than those who took one semester or less. Despite 72 percent of employers ranking creativity as one of the most highly-sought qualities in a potential employee, classes that foster the skill are often not a part of or required by the curriculum.
“Our legislation is a first and critical step to ensuring the today’s and tomorrow’s children have the opportunity to better themselves through artistic expression and education and cultivate the skills and qualities they need to succeed,” said Sen. Hertel. “I have three children who have benefited from music programs in East Lansing schools, and those same opportunities should be available for all of Michigan’s children.”