Hi, Marcia. I teach at a Catholic School and have had budget woes since I started there. But your dilemma is miserable. When kids see that their program isn't funded (valued), they don't take it seriously. I know my budget can't compete with the public school art programs and that presents huge problems in just filling the class with students. The program was decimated and nearly eliminated before I got there. To make it worse, if I don't draw kids - and keep them - I have to teach World History to fill out my schedule. I truly am not qualified to teach World History but they don't worry about that at Catholic schools. They put you wherever they need you. In teaching World History, I spend so much time prepping what I don't know that I can't spend time on the art classes and they suffer. But I digress.
In 2001-2002 (27 students) and 2002-2003 (27 students) I had $64.44 per student. In 2003-2004 (36 students) it went down to $53.17 due to increased enrollment. In 2004-2005 (39 students) it was $53.85 per student. For 2005-2006 (46 students) it is $51.08 per student.
I have worked very hard to increase enrollment in the Visual Arts program. Yet, the budget has consistently been increased only $200 each year for 10 years, regardless of the number of students in the program. Therefore the dollars per student has decreased. I "discussed" this decline in per student funds with the principle. His answer was that it did not matter how many students were enrolled in the program. The funding would continue to increase only $200 per year. No arguments. Take it or leave it.
He even refused to allow a textbook for the new Art 3 and Art 4 programs. Art 1 and Art 2 use the same textbook. But those kids can't use the same book for four years! Our Visual Arts Program includes a midterm and final exam. They must have a textbook. So, I started buying used Art Fundamentals textbooks out of my own pocket. At least we would have something. This year I'll have 15 Art 3 students (we won't have an Art 4 until next year, God willing). I just purchased book #15 a couple of weeks ago. It's taken me 4 years to build the collection. I'm not going to let the kids take the books out of the classroom. They'll have to take very good notes. I don't know what I'll do when there is an Art 4. I ordered 5 more books yesterday. I hope the booksellers come through for me. I also hope those college kids keep selling those barely used textbooks that they didn't read. Of course, I haven't told the administration that I'm buying books. If they knew that, I'd have to buy the supplies
too (shhh, you all know I do that anyway).
What can you do? When you love teaching art, you make sacrifices. But I do think that $4.32 per year per student is asking too much. I didn't realize how well off we were compared to some. All of the public schools in the area have TONS of supplies beyond what we have, even the middle schools. I just spoke to a colleague who said he buys new brushes every year. If I did that we'd be broke. I have to label all the brushes and monitor who uses them. They have to last forever. I'm so budget conscious. In my first year, I was given $100 to spend on 50 kids. That was my introduction to "Bare Bones" art class. It was very difficult. I guess I shouldn't complain. But I do resent having to spend hundreds, at times thousands, of dollars of my money to supplement the program just because I'm in love with teaching art. Before you suggest it, I've already proposed an activities fee or student purchased supplies and both were rejected by the administration. Grant money helps but not enough.
Fret not, dear friends. The students are thriving. Their work is better than ever. They took 3 state and 7 county awards this year. That is a record for us. One of my former students just graduated from Parsons (she's my shining glory). She was the only high school student accepted to Parsons in the year she started, she was also the only American! I currently have students attending Ringling, Savannah, Syracuse and Pratt as well as several other fine schools. My kids have also been accepted to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Tyler, SVA, Corcoran, FIT, and many more. We are alive and well. We MAKE it work. At the same time, I know we could be doing much better.
We have no printing press or printmaking supplies, no kiln, no acrylics, no watercolor, etc. This past year we just started water-based oil on cardboard, small canvas boards and very small canvas paper. My logic is that, if nothing else, we can get large cardboard from the appliance stores and cover it with cheap house paint. We can make large paintings on that. I say large because at National Portfolio Day, the reoccurring theme is work bigger. They also say we need more variety but we're still working on that, one step at a time. The kids do pre-college programs to help improve their portfolios and exposure to art experiences, media, teaching methods, advice, etc. They've been great about working from life observation. That was a hard sell but the good schools insist on it and they're right. We've done so much to improve but there is so much more to do. Perhaps the worst part is we only have 40 minute classes. When you consider set up and clean up, there's not much time left.
Sometimes I wonder if I should even spend the money on a printmaking program. Will we have time to make a print?
Ok, now I'm rambling. Sorry. Is anyone still reading this? It's just so hard to decide where to best spend the money. It IS all about the kids. What's best for them? Truly, if I ask them to aspire to their best work, they do. Lately, they have been asking for more. At the competitions and exhibitions, they see kids doing things in other schools that we can't afford. I just know we could be doing better.
I am curious. How does my budget, and Marcia's compare to others out there? How do Catholic schools compare to public schools? What regional comparisons can be made? I'm in NJ. In my region, my budget is very poor. Am I much better off than I know?
Marcia, I do wish you luck in your defense against your budget cut. I hope my numbers help.
If you think you can, you probably will. If you think you can't, you probably won't. In either case, you're probably right. [Steve Wynn}