Group wants arts put back in class

Thursday, February 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A group of business leaders want to keep Oklahoma schools from neglecting their creative sides.

A new campaign announced Wednesday aims to return arts education to elementary schools, even when schools lack state or school funds to do so.

"It's incredibly important to the business community to have strong arts education in the state," said Richard Ratcliffe, chairman of the Business Circle for Arts Education.

His group, along with the Oklahoma Arts Council, Phillips Petroleum Co., the Kirkpatrick Foundation and Ackerman McQueen advertising agency are sponsoring the "ArtsPower: Bringing the Arts Back to School" campaign.

Their ultimate goal is to see a certified arts and a certified music teacher at all 1,073 public and private elementary schools in Oklahoma.

ArtsPower won't directly offer money to schools, but it will point them toward available funding. School officials, through the ArtsPower Web site or action guide, can learn more about artists-in-residence programs and grants offered through various business, federal and state agencies and local arts councils.

"We're not just educating future scientists, chemists and accountants -- we're educating scientists, chemists and accountants with heart," said Ron Stanley, Phillips Petroleum Co.'s manager of community relations.

"The most excellent business leaders and employees are creative thinkers -- people who can appreciate new ideas."

State education officials say educators long have known that arts education is important, but funding shortages and an increasing emphasis on testing have put arts on the backburner.

Many Oklahoma art and music teachers travel from school to school, offering art and music to students for as little as an hour a week.

JoAnn Pierce, principal of Duncans Emerson Elementary, said her school relies on federal funds to offer arts and music education several days a week. Pierce would like to hire a full-time art teacher, but doesn't have the money.

"Right now were capitalizing on the expertise of a few classroom teachers, but someone who makes arts their love would make the program richer," she said. "Its all about economics."

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