Professional-quality musical instruments, fine arts field trips, and special training for teachers are among the list of changes to the district's fine arts education. HISD Superintendent Dr. Abe Saavedra says a number of grants totaling $1.75 million will fund the increased focus on arts.
"The priority for funding in our district for many years -- the last several years -- has really been in the core academic areas. And it doesn't necessarily mean that the fine arts have been cut, it just means that as we've invested education dollars we're investing more and more in academics and less and less in fine arts. A greater gap has existed in the last few years as a result of that. It's important to close that gap."
Some of the money will go toward training to help teachers in core subjects incorporate fine arts into their classes. Saavedra says an example of this would be teaching students to read music as part of their math classes.
"Teachers compete with television, mp3 players for students' attention and we must find better ways to engage our students in their studies. We continue to raise academic standards to better prepare our students for college, but also we are learning from what they like to do to help educate them."
District officials say participation in arts improves attendance and test scores. HISD Foundation Chairman Gov. Mark White says they're hoping the fine arts emphasis will improve students academically and turn out more well-balanced graduates.
"More interesting we can make our schools today, the more likely we are to reduce dropouts and to improve the options for young people to provide and have productive lives."
The district is bolstering the fine arts programs mostly at the elementary level, although some middle and high schools will receive additional funding. The district received grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and the Houston Symphony to increase arts education. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.