How have Legacy funds helped arts education in Minnesota schools?


New state money for arts education began to flow in 2010, funded by the Legacy Amendment, but that may not add up to more arts education. “Education,” after all, is a fairly broad term, and can include programming that occurs in schools, as well as in the community for learners of all ages. Despite the increase in state spending on arts education due to the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, there has actually been a decrease in the number or licensed visual and performing arts teachers, with a loss of about 178 licensed visual and performing art teachers since 2006. The count of visual and performing arts teachers in Minnesota public schools was 3467.38 in 2006-2007, but decreased to 3,450.99 in 2007-2008, 3,436.17 in 2008-2009, 3,351 in 2009-2010, and 3,289.83 in 2010-2011.


Where does the Legacy money come from?

When Minnesotans voted in 2008 for the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, they enacted a law that dedicated funds to protect Minnesota’s drink water, enhance and restore wetlands, prairies, forests and fish, game and wildlife habitat, preserve arts and cultural heritage, support parks and trails, and protect, enhance and restore lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater through the year 2034.

According to the DNR website, the amendment raised the state sales tax from 6.5 percent to 6.875 percent, dedicating 33 percent to the Outdoor Heritage Fund, 33 percent to the Clean Water Fund, 14.25 percent the Parks and Trails Fund, and 19.75 percent to the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. The Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund accumulated $48 million in 2010 and $54.5 million in 2011.

According to Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, the amendment was the culmination of an effort which began in 1991 when Sen. Richard Cohen formed a working group to search for a dedicated stream of funding for the arts. Revenue from the amendment began being collected on July 1, 2009.

Sue Gens, executive director of the Minnesota State Arts Board, said that they are not allowed to use legacy dollars to pay for licensed teachers. “The language of the amendment says that the funding is a supplement, not a substitute,” she said. “Our expectation, because arts are a part of the academic standards, is that students in schools are receiving a certain amount of arts education to meet the state requirements.” The funding the state arts board provides, according to Gens, is supplemental to that core curriculum. Supplemental education can be defined broadly, such as bringing artists to schools, or funding arts in a community center, etc. “We don’t tell them how to do it,” Gens said.

In recent years, the state arts board has changed the way it’s conducted arts education funding, according Gens. In the past, the only people who could apply for state arts education grants were schools, and the grants only covered residencies, with a budget of about $300,000 or $400,000. Now, both schools and arts organizations can apply for  arts learning grants, which amount to about $2.2 million.

“Often we heard from schools that there is a worry about how much time teachers have to write grant proposals,” Gens said. Now, since the arts organization can be the grantee, the artist or arts organization can apply for the grant, although the schools still needs to be involved in planning the project.

Arts learning grants are no longer limited to five-day residencies, as they were in the past. “The five-day residency for schools is a little hard,” Gens said. “We didn’t want that to be a barrier.” Therefore, while some residencies do last five days, others include a teaching artist visiting the school once a month. Grants can also be used for non-residency arts learning, such as the long distance learning program offered by the Cowles Center.  

Grant applicants are measured on the quality of the arts experience, the ability of the applicant to carry out the project, commitment to community, and how they intend to measure their outcomes, said Gens.  Starting this year, grantees will also have to show what their actual outcomes were. In the past, they submitted final reports, but now those outcomes will be posted on a public website.  

Minnesota Regional Arts Councils

Of the legacy money that the state arts board receives, 30 percent goes to the twelve regional arts councils that serve different parts of the state.

“In a sense, we are nonprofit organizations, not state agencies,” said Jeff Prauer, executive director of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. “A lot of people don’t realize that. Some people think we are part of state government.” 

Prauer said that the organization uses 15 percent of its funding for arts education. 80 percent for arts and arts access, and five percent for cultural heritage. About a third of MRAC’s arts education activities occur in schools, he said.

MRAC isn’t very prescriptive about what the arts education activity should be. However, they do have to be participatory, as opposed to demonstrative. “There needs to be some kind of engagement,” he said.  They also need to occur over an extended period of time. “There’s a lot of research that shows that multiple exposure to artists or an art form is more beneficial,” he said. 

MRAC has six criteria for grants — artistic quality, educational value, ability, community need and support, diversity, and access.  In describing the educational value, MRAC has to show what the goals are for the project. 

Applicants can apply for both regional arts council and state arts board funding. The regional arts council has a matching requirement, but state arts board funding can’t be used toward the match.  “We don’t want groups to get all money from the state for a project,” he said. 

Perpich Center — Arts Integration and Statewide Survey

The Perpich Center for Arts Education was called in by a group of five legislators to do an arts integration project, according to Pam Paulson, Senior Director of Policy for the Perpich Center. “The reason they wanted us to take that on,” she said, “was to make sure there were opportunities in the future.” Investing in teachers was a really sound way that the legacy could survive, she said. 

The Perpich Center’s arts integration program is focused on helping teachers learn how to teach well and teach collaboratively with others in their school, she said.

Arts Integration involves teaching non-arts teachers, such as social studies or math or science, to use art to help teach their subject. The program is aimed at “actual faculty members in the school,” Paulson said, “so that even if they transfer, it sticks with them.”

The program began with the premise that teaching teachers across subject areas to integrate the arts would result in greater achievement by students.

The Perpich Center has been collecting data about the student work, such as using painting or drawing to learn social studies, and how those techniques can affect scores in different subject areas. “We really need these kids to learn better, clearer, and deeper,” she said.

Asking teachers to take time away from their math lessons can be a little scary, but Paulson said that “teachers are saying that students are learning more in an arts integrated learning lesson.”  In assessing the program, students have said that this way of learning makes the concepts stick in their memories. According to Paulson, 80 percent of the teachers say they will continue to do arts integration. 

The Perpich Center has been working with teachers with the Lakes Country region (Becker, Clay, Douglas, Otter Tail, Stevens, Traverse counties in western MN), and will begin working with the Southeast region next year. The goal is, she said, to reach students across the state.

In addition to the legacy funds has used for arts integration, the Perpich Center also has used some money to do a statewide study of arts education. Currently, “no infrastructure is in place to collect information about student achievement in the arts,” Paulson said. They hope to find, among other things, what pockets of the state need the most funds, and how can funds be targeted to help those with the greatest need.  The study will be completed this spring. 

Sue Gens, from the Minnesota State Arts Board, said the Perpich study was important because currently, there is no policing mechanism to ensure that schools are meeting the state standards for arts education. Right now, it’s just an honor system. “There is a fear that some schools as they are looking at their own funding, are choosing not to meet the standards,” she said. She said that she hopes the study will offer some answers and accountability.