SALT LAKE CITY -- Parents of school children are getting organized in an effort to save a growing program credited with improving student academic performance. The Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program could be on the chopping block thanks to the state's tough budget situation.
The program is an innovative public-private collaboration to teach arts to kids. It's the pride and joy of its founder, who is one of Utah's leading philanthropists, but it needs to have its state funding renewed to keep going.
Research continually shows that children who study the arts sequentially for at least four years score higher on national achievement tests. -Art Works for Kids
At Highland Park Elementary, students are enthused to learn.
Katie Miner, a sixth-grader, said, "I like coming to art because I get to do what I want really, and it's something fun rather than usual class."
Simon Mayfield, a kindergartener, said, "We can learn about music."
Perhaps the main reason arts are taught at the school and in more than 50 schools statewide is Beverly Taylor Sorenson. She helped create Art Works for Kids and has given millions to fund arts education.
Sorenson explained, "It's been the hardest thing for me to explain sometimes. There was a time when they would say 'oh it's just fluff.' This is not fluff."
The Arts Learning Program is currently operating in 52 schools and 20 districts across Utah, serving approximately 30,000 students. -Art Works for Kids
Despite that view, last year lawmakers sharply cut funding for the $16 million program they started the year before. Next year could be worse. Now, a grassroots group has sprung up to convince lawmakers to save the program.
Lisa Cluff, director of Friends of Art Works for Kids, explained, "They need an outlet and a place where they can enjoy and have fun and a reason they would want to go to school, and the arts offer them that opportunity."
"It's great for them to be exposed to it and have an appreciation of it because it's a big part of our world," said Kathleen Bonifay, an arts specialist at Highland Elementary.
Miner said she hoped the program will remain "because we would miss dance, art, music maybe, and that's stuff that I like to do."""This is true learning, true creating, true growing," Sorenson said. "We cannot let this die."
There's a community meeting about these potential cuts Tuesday night.
It's at Highland Park Elementary
1738 E. 2700 South in Salt Lake City
6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.