Arts for LA’s ACTIVATE Advocacy Leadership Initiative is approaching its mid-point as it empowers arts education advocates in our community. Participants just finished their third and fourth sessions on education policy, decision-making, understanding data, and mapping community resources.
On November 5th participants gathered at Heart of Los Angeles to learn about regional, statewide, and national education trends, laws and initiatives. The session began with a panel of four policy experts including September Hill, Public Policy Director at the Junior League of Los Angeles, Rachel Levin, President at Fundamental Inc., Claudia Vizcarra, Deputy Chief of staff to LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer, and Mark Slavkin, Vice President for Education at the Music Center.
The panel spoke about how they implement public policy efforts through various methods and how each method can be useful. ACTIVATE participants learned about the difficulties of implementing policy and how to effectively address issues. The session discussed ideas regarding funding and discovering who makes decisions on how money is spent for students.
“Through this session I was able to learn how to contact district board members and how to identify who I can reach to implement music programs in my district,” said Alma Catalan, ACTIVATE participant, LAUSD. During the session participants were able to speak with policy makers and learn about the necessity of policy advocacy in arts education. "The session highlighted new strategies in the way we talk about arts education, specifically that it is instruction rather than enrichment,” said Brian Nieman, ACTIVATE participant, Compton Unified. “We need to look at arts education as an investment, not a charity."
The next session took place on Wednesday November 19, at the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. The session was jammed packed with resources on how to understand data, research, and Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP). Participants had a chance to learn how to read and use data to inform their arts education advocacy. Speaker Bronwyn Mauldin, Research and Evaluation Manager at the LA County Arts Commission, spoke about the importance of understanding how to read data to effectively use it to advance a cause. “Once you know how to find and analyze arts education data, you can use it to inform others and make your case; it’s an incredibly powerful tool,” said Mauldin.
Participants learned how to analyze one set of data against another to evaluate an LCAP’s strengths and weaknesses to provide an opportunity to advocate. They also analyzed their LCAPs to see if their districts have strategies or funding for arts education. “This session helped me realize the importance of knowing the main goals of a district and how arts can support these goals,” said Jeanne Mitchell, ACTIVATE participant. ACTIVATE will conclude in December with a Taking Leadership and Taking Action session followed by a graduation reception.
Participants will have gained the skills necessary to become arts education leaders in their community. In the spring ACTIVATE graduates will continue to meet in a small cohort and will be asked to put together an advocacy action plan for their district. Through ACTIVATE, Arts for LA hopes to increase arts education advocacy and make a difference in education throughout Los Angeles County.