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Public Statements

Supporting Arts in Education Week

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PASCRELL. Madam Speaker, as the gentlewoman from California is not here yet, who is the primary sponsor of this legislation, I rise in support of House Concurrent Resolution 275.

I want to commend both Mr. Polis and Mr. Petri for their very succinct words.

I know firsthand the benefits that our children receive from a robust arts education program, whether it is music, theater, visual arts, photography, poetry, or dance. This is not simply an outlet. This is part and parcel of the essential features of what a good education is all about. Unfortunately, the current state of the economy has now put these classes and the further enrichment of our students at risk, and I would ask us to address this issue.

What is the first to be cut? Go right across the Nation. Arts, libraries and sports--the things our kids love best. Arts are not just sought to get away from things. Arts are part of their lives. They enrich them. They contribute to one's total being when one has an appreciation of the arts.

I taught an arts course, History through the Arts. They were mostly students who could care less about American history; so I had to find a way to get to them. I taught the course by going through all of those fine arts I just talked about. I asked them to learn about our Nation through different periods of time through the artwork, the poetry and the music of that individual time, not unlike what we would do when studying the Renaissance.

This is particularly evident in New Jersey. The city of my district, West Orange, has announced its intentions to cut its music and arts departments in addition to laying off almost 90 staff members in order to reduce its budget. It is forced to do that. Yet we take no action. Last year, in the stimulus package, we saved a lot of jobs, necessary jobs. This year, we are reluctant to do that. We are frightened. The word ``deficit'' is in all capital letters. Yet for 8 years we saw this accumulate and accumulate and said nothing.

In my town of Paterson, where I grew up and still live, 50 music teachers and 38 art teachers got their pink slips. John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson performed just its second spring musical in 30 years in April. Talk about austerity. Due to the cuts, it could be another 30 years. I'm not exaggerating. These are the numbers. You can't make this stuff up.

Before this crisis a 2007 study found out more than 75,000 students in New Jersey have been attending school every day with no arts education. If we want to encourage arts in education, then we can't talk out of both sides of our mouths. So it is nice to recognize the arts in a week, a month, a year. That's fine. That's great. If we were to fire all the arts teachers, what would that be like?

It looks like the Senate has decided to strip the $10 billion that this House voted for to keep our teachers in their classrooms. I don't know what is happening at the other end of the building. By failing to provide our children with opportunities to supplement their classes, we are robbing them of a complete education. We must consider the arts, which enrich our lives, the lives of our youth, which spark a life-long love and passion for creativity, not as a secondary priority in our educational system but as an essential pillar of its foundation.

So I urge the support of H. Con. Res. 275, which expresses the support for the designation of this week beginning on the second Sunday of September, and I urge the Senate to keep up with the House on some issues at least.


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