In 2011, the California Alliance for Arts Education began its Title I Initiative as a way of clarifying misunderstandings about the appropriateness of using Title I funds to support arts strategies and a guide to action for schools and districts seeking to embark on the work. Four years in, we’re delighted to see that the Initiative has taken root around the state, as well as resonating with some other states pursuing similar agendas, particularly in anticipation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)’s devolution of much decision-making power to the state level.
In a nutshell, federal Title I policy clearly allows schools and districts to include arts education in their strategies to achieve Title I goals. Downstream of the federal level, however, the Alliance found that there was a lack of clarity about whether and how the arts could play a role in Title I. Coupled with the culture of “fear of reprisal” that seemed to permeate the Title I world—where funding could be retracted if a program didn’t meet state or federal expectations—this lack of clarity was proving an insurmountable barrier. Schools and districts, it seemed, were either electing to ignore the opportunity to include arts education in their strategies for achieving Title I goals, or were moving forward in a way that would draw no attention to those practices.