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Parents whose children attend five elementary schools in Wards 1, 2, and 3 have created a petition asking D.C. Public Schools to preserve funding for the Fillmore Arts Center in Georgetown for the next academic year and beyond.
Fillmore, located at 1819 35th St. NW, currently serves roughly 1,700 students with a venue, materials, and teachers for multimedia arts. The five schools that regularly use it—Key, Ross, Marie Reed, Hyde-Addison, and Stoddert—bus their students there during the week, contributing a little under $1 million a year to fund 10 Fillmore teachers. Additionally, DCPS puts forward nearly $600,000 a year to pay for Fillmore’s director, three staffers, and various supplies. In total, with maintenance and transportation, the annual cost per student for operating Fillmore is about $1,100.
“If the cuts are allowed to stand, our students will lose sculpture, computer animation, digital arts, pottery, theater, dance, strings, band, and others,” reads the petition, which has more than 800 supporters on Change.org. “The end of Fillmore would mean that our students would no longer have the dedicated classrooms, studio space, instruments, tools, and supplies that they can only enjoy at Fillmore.”
The center has faced potential budget cuts before. In 2013, Fillmore had been serving over 3,000 students from 11 schools, the Post reported. Parents petitioned, and DCPS ultimately maintained the center’s level of funding.
But with fewer schools paying into the arts center—essentially, participating schools divert some of their annual arts budgets to Fillmore—DCPS says the facility has become too costly to run with funding from the system’s central office. Notably, DCPS won’t cut arts funding to the schools individually under a current budget proposal for the following academic year. So if these five schools wanted to keep the programs at Fillmore, it’d cost them somewhere between $84,000 and $129,000 each.
DCPS Press Secretary Michelle Lerner provided to City Desk the following statement about Fillmore’s possible cuts:
“D.C. Public Schools is committed to providing robust arts instruction at all elementary schools, and has maintained its $17.5 million investment in elementary school offerings, including arts, music, world languages, and physical education, and other offerings each year starting in FY 2014,” says in a statement provided to City Desk. “DCPS spends approximately $458 per student across all elementary schools to support art and music instruction. At one time, more schools participated in Fillmore, which made the program more cost effective, but we cannot continue to fund this program for five schools. Each school will continue with arts instruction in a school-based model.”
Still, on Twitter, parents and other residents have expressed concerns about the loss of arts opportunities for students:
— Cortney Weinbaum (@cortney_dc) February 29, 2016
— Jesse Kirkpatrick (@JLKirkpatrick1) February 29, 2016
— Laura Smith (@LauraSmithDC) February 28, 2016
— Ward3-Wilson Ed Net (@W3EdNet) February 27, 2016
— Ward 2 Ed Network (@Ward2EdNetwork) February 27, 2016
— Scott Winship (@swinshi) February 26, 2016
— MINT (@MintWellnessDC) February 26, 2016
— Alex Marshall (@a_r_marshall) February 25, 2016
— Peter Eisler (@byPeterEisler) February 25, 2016
@HendersonKaya By taking away Fillmore Arts funding you are cutting Fillmore Arts Camp – a safe respite for DC kids that builds community
— Pallavi Kumar (@pdkdc) February 25, 2016