What is Be Creative?
Be Creative: A Campaign for Chicago Arts Education is a $38 million private fundraising campaign that will fuel the first-ever CPS Arts Education Plan over the next four years. The Arts Education Plan is a groundbreaking initiative designed to systematically bring the arts to every CPS student in every school, from kindergarten through high school. The new Arts Education Plan recognizes that arts are essential to a quality education and must be a core subject like science, math and social studies. This campaign is funding what we believe is one of the most sweeping arts and public education initiatives in the nation. To mirror the private dollars, CPS has invested $12.5 million in new public dollars to hire additional arts teachers for the 2014-2015 school year.
What will the money be spent on?
The arts infrastructure for all Chicago public schools is being rebuilt after years of disinvestment. Here’s a breakdown on the private investments:
- An expanded and updated arts curriculum
- New assessment systems to track student learning in the arts just as we do in other core subjects
- Putting essential materials and supplies in the hands of students and teachers—things like musical instruments, cameras and scripts
- Greater access for teachers and students to Chicago’s wide array of cultural institutions and programs—large and small—in every corner of our city
- Better data collection and accountability for progress, to see where financial investments are making the most difference and where progress needs to be made
- Transition to sustainability
Who distributes the money, and is the distribution process conducted independently of CPS?
The Creative Schools Fund is administered independently of the District by Ingenuity, a Chicago nonprofit arts education advocacy organization. Management of the funds also will be overseen by a leadership committee of civic leaders and investors independent of Chicago Public Schools. The funds will be distributed to the District for curricular initiatives, with the majority of funds directed to individual schools based on identified needs. The grants exclusively support programs involving school-based, credentialed arts instructors.
How are outcomes measured?
Ingenuity uses its data systems to provide detailed accountability and will track every dollar of our investments in arts education to make sure they’re going where they should, to achieve the results we all expect and where we expect them to happen—inside our classrooms. Annual public progress reporting uses a series of metrics developed by Ingenuity specifically for CPS, with further independent review by a qualified third party for accuracy and accountability.
Why do we need private money to help pay for CPS arts education programming?
The CPS Arts Education Plan is in place and ready to be enacted. To sustain the momentum that’s been generated by the Plan, this initiative must be launched now. Given the challenges facing the CPS and city budgets, an infusion of private dollars can drive this momentum in the short-term for the benefit of students. Long-term sustainable funding is being secured, but while that happens, we have a once-in-a generation opportunity to invest in a new system that will profoundly affect how our children learn.
Are you concerned about the well-documented Chicago Tribune series criticizing past CPS borrowing strategies as too risky financial challenges? How do they impact the campaign? Would CPS have more money for programs—arts education or others—if it didn’t have to spend so much on debt service?
It’s well known the Tribune coverage took a deep dive into strategies CPS has employed to address its financial challenges. There’s disagreement about how much the financing strategies may wind up costing the District—but the magnitude of its overall budget problems dwarf whatever that cost might be.
We don’t diminish the impact of any unanticipated or avoidable costs. But the fact is that CPS has been wrestling with an extremely tough budget situation for several years. This is due in part to significant deficits in its pension system and its operations budget. Those are the larger structural problems that need fixing, with help from the Illinois General Assembly.
The kind of fiscal challenges CPS faces and that were addressed in the Tribune series are exactly why our campaign exists. Without our private investment, CPS simply is not in a position to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring arts education to all of our schools.
And this once-in-a-generation opportunity comes at a time of improving educational outcomes. CPS has been diligently working over the past several years on a district-wide renaissance. As Crain’s reported in early November 2014, CPS graduation rates have improved more than any other U.S. urban school district, and CPS dropout rates are at their lowest level in 15 years. Students are improving academically across all grade levels. There is progress on key fundamental education benchmarks. This is the real bottom line… and we have to build on this momentum.
The $38 million we are raising will serve as a transition fund until CPS is in better financial shape and can assume the incremental $15 million annual cost of fully implementing the CPS Arts Education Plan. We can’t let our children down—especially those in low-income neighborhoods who have gone for years without any arts instruction. We must Be Creative and make this happen for our children.
What happens after four years, when these private dollars have been spent? Will public dollars be available to sustain this program?
The Creative Schools Fund is a transitional step, serving as a bridge to eventual public funding of the full Arts Education Plan. With the recent elevation of arts to a core subject, the academic foundation is now in place, and we’re optimistic that sustainable funding will follow.
We base our optimism on four primary factors:
- LEADERSHIP. Highly committed civic, government and cultural leaders support this plan. The Mayor, President of the Board of Education, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, the heads of foundations and corporations, parents and community groups all are unified in support of the Arts Education Plan. These individuals and organizations represent a movement that for the first time in 30 years is re-investing in arts education.
- OPPORTUNITY. Over the course of the coming year there are a number of fiscal issues that need to be resolved to address overall budgetary challenges faced not just by CPS, but also by the State of Illinois. An expiring income tax hike and a daunting pension commitment are just two examples.
- PERSPECTIVE. The amount needed to sustain the Arts Education Plan is $15 million a year—just one-third of one percent of the CPS annual $5 billion budget.
- TIME. We have time. The $38 million being raised by the Campaign for Chicago Arts Education will fund full implementation of the Arts Education Plan through the 2017-2018 school year. During the next four years, the unprecedented data collection efforts will help firmly establish a case for public funding by tracking and measuring success, opportunity and need—and further validate overall student impact.
Who is behind this effort?
Be Creative results from a collaboration of the following:
- The Mayor’s Office
- The Board of Education and President David Vitale
- CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett
- A civic leadership group of philanthropic and cultural leaders
- Community organizations
- Leading Chicago corporations
- Ingenuity, an independent nonprofit that is lead partner to CPS in advocating for arts education, developing and implementing arts education strategies and tracking progress.
Is this really a community-wide effort?
Yes. Community residents who testified at the more than 35 town halls for the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan spoke out for more arts education. As a result, it was the Cultural Plan’s number-one recommendation.
You talk about having arrived at a distinct moment in time. What do you mean by that?
Arts education advocates around the country see the same three obstacles in every city: political will, time in the school day, and money. In Chicago, we have overcome two of those three obstacles and we’re making important headway on the third through this fundraising campaign. This is once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform arts education in CPS schools.
- In 2012, the City of Chicago unveiled the first citywide Cultural Plan since Harold Washington was mayor. Reflecting what was heard from the community at town halls across the city, the Cultural Plan made expanded arts education its top priority.
- The Cultural Plan was the catalyst for the first-ever CPS Arts Education Plan, the overall strategy driving the expansion of arts learning in our schools. The Plan was put into place starting with the 2012-2013 school year.
- Extending the school day opened up time in the schedule to add two hours per week of additional arts education to the curriculum of elementary schools.
- We have public leadership: Mayor Emanuel is a strong advocate of the arts and its role in the life of our city, and supports arts education. The same is true for Board President David Vitale and his colleagues on the Board of Education. The Board has enacted policies implementing the CPS Arts Education Plan.
- We have cultural leadership through an organized community of more than 500 arts partners ready to work with individual schools.
- We have extensive data about arts education at individual schools across the city and a baseline from which to measure and track progress in each of the next several years.
How exactly does the CPS Arts Education Plan work?
The CPS Arts Education Plan was created in 2012 on the heels of the City’s first Cultural Plan in 25 years, which called for expanded arts education as its number-one recommendation. Soon thereafter, the Board of Education approved the CPS Arts Education Plan – the first time CPS had ever set long-term goals to bring arts instruction to all students.
The ambitious plan lays out a series of policy changes, recommendations and initiatives—starting with declaring the arts a core subject of equal importance to science, math and social studies. The Plan adds arts education to the metrics for CPS school progress report cards, calls for two hours of arts instruction each week in elementary schools and prescribes that every student receive arts education in each grade from K-12.
What is the Creative Schools Initiative and how does it relate to the CPS Arts Education Plan?
The Creative Schools Initiative—launched at the end of the 2012-2013 school year—is the tactical, hands-on strategy for moving the Arts Education Plan from concept to action. It sets up a district-wide arts education infrastructure that provides a roadmap for progress in each school. It also provides technical support at the individual school level, such as training, funding to support instructor-designed programs and cultural partnerships.
How does this differ from other arts education programs? We’ve had many public-private arts programs in Chicago schools over the years.
The CPS Arts Education Plan represents an entirely new approach to arts education. This is about placing the arts at the core of the curriculum at every CPS school in Chicago. It’s about arts for every student in every grade in every school. It is a sequenced approach that builds in complexity and rigor from kindergarten through high school, just like math or history or science. We’re also using new data collection and analysis technology that allows us to track progress school-by-school across the district.
What is Ingenuity and what role does it play in this campaign?
Ingenuity is a nonprofit organization established in 2011 to better coordinate access to the arts for children across the city and advocate for expanded arts education. Its formation was driven by a consortium of local funders as well as a group of 400 representatives from schools, arts organizations, CPS and local funders that came together in 2010 after a national report criticized Chicago’s approach to arts education.
Ingenuity helped with the development of the CPS Arts Education Plan and is the co-architect with CPS in creating and launching the Creative Schools Initiative—the tactical blueprint for turning concepts into action. It administers distribution of funds to schools, runs a robust data collection system to track progress in individual schools, and issues an annual citywide arts education progress report. While it collaborates with CPS, it operates independently.
What exactly is Ingenuity’s “State of the Arts” report?
The State of the Arts Report is an annual accounting of arts education in Chicago Public Schools. The initial report reviewed the 2012-2013 school year and was released in July 2014. It established the baseline for measuring progress in individual schools and across the system in coming years. The latest report, released in Novermber 2014, looked at the progress made during the 2013-2014 school year. Additional progress reports will continue to be issued annually.
What kind of progress should we be looking for in future reports?
We want to see steady progress in shrinking the disparities between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Measures include the number of minutes schools devote weekly to arts instruction, the number of arts partners, teachers, field trips, performances, financial investments, and more.
What exactly is being accomplished at individual schools as a result of the new arts education strategy? And what will result from the additional private dollars flowing into the system through Be Creative?
- The Arts Education Plan calls for an improved and expanded District arts curriculum, along with a new assessment system to track student learning in the arts. The Plan also calls for new principal and teacher training supports to help effectively implement the curriculum. A large portion of funds will be dedicated to these resources.
- Each certified school will annually get “arts essentials” funds—$750 to $1,000—to use on its most needed arts materials—scripts for theatrical productions, musical instruments, etc. The goal is to grow this funding over time.
- Access to grants earmarked for imaginative arts partnerships designed by teachers. These grants range from $10,000 to $15,000 per school. To qualify for these grants a school must have an arts liaison and have provided basic data about its arts program.
- A partnership with one of 700 arts organizations in Chicago that have been identified by Ingenuity and CPS.
IMPACT OF ARTS EDUCATION
Why is arts education is so important?
The arts play an essential role in a child’s academic, social and personal development.
Academics: The arts are fundamental to learning. Research has shown that students who participate in the arts improve their academic performance, attend school more regularly, graduate in greater numbers and are more likely to attend college. The results are even more pronounced in lower-income neighborhoods. The initiative recognizes the arts are education.
Social development: The arts inspire full, meaningful and engaged lives. Children become better communicators, work in teams more effectively, and are more able to connect the dots from subject to subject. These are social and personal skills that last a lifetime.
Community: A modern economy demands a modern education. Our economy relies on innovation and new ways of solving problems. This campaign to expand arts education can have an extremely positive benefit to the future economic and social health of our city.
How much of an impact can this campaign have without paying for more certified arts instructors?
School-based, credentialed arts instructors are the anchors for arts in our schools. CPS and Mayor Emanuel committed $12.5 million in TIF funds for hiring 85 additional full-time arts teachers for the 2014-2015 school year. Money raised by Be Creative supports teachers with professional development, classroom materials and teacher-designed programs with community arts partners. By making arts education a much greater priority—and something on which principals will be evaluated—we hope to create an incentive for schools to continue to hire more arts teachers.
When you talk about “cultural partners” for schools, does that mean privatizing or outsourcing arts education?
No. The certified arts instructor remains at the core of arts education. We want to strengthen the capacity of teachers to provide the richest possible arts experience for students in every grade, and we support the hiring of more arts teachers by CPS. But Chicago has a rich pool of cultural resources and many of our kids don’t have access to it. Working in tandem with teachers, we have an opportunity to open up these resources to schoolchildren in tandem with teachers. But as good as these partners may be, they are not a substitute for onsite arts instructors. These partnerships are about supplementing, not replacing.