Arts Project Doomed After Legislature Denies Matching Funds

Arts Project Doomed After Legislature Denies Matching Funds

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Philanthropist Beverley Sorenson contributed close to $2 million for a statewide school Art Works for Kids pilot project that is doomed in its current form after the Legislature for the third straight year failed to appropriate any matching funds.

After the pilot concludes in 2005, the art teachers who now work in the elementary schools may have to teach elsewhere.

In 2000, the Legislature voted to fund Art Works for Kids at $200,000 a year in matching funds over five years, said Ben Leishman, a state fiscal analyst. Sorenson said the Legislature also provided the foundation with $400,000 for startup costs.

The state provided $200,000 a year for fiscal years 2001 and 2002 before it cut all funding for fiscal 2003, Leishman said.

Since then, Sorenson has contributed $1.3 million of her own money to keep the pilot program afloat, her staff said Tuesday.

State school board member Tim Beagley cannot understand why the Legislature did not restore the project's funding.

"It should've been looked at as free money," he said. "The state just had to contribute a little bit in matching funds and the rest would come from private sources."

Rep. Gordon Snow, R-Roosevelt, said economic realities dictated state budget decisions.

"It's been an excellent program," said Snow, public education appropriations committee co-chairman. "Arts are every bit as important as other subjects. But that's not the only important program we've had difficulty funding."

Sorenson and her staff have given up lobbying the Legislature. After 2005, they plan to use existing school facilities and arts specialists to train teachers how to use art in the classroom.

"We're going to create a professional-development academy," said Judy Weeks, Art Works for Kids executive director. "If we want to change the way children learn, we're going to have to change the way teachers teach."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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