Support Arts Education & Fillmore

Long-term investment in our educational programs is critical to their ongoing success. In DC, we have an opportunity to continue our investment in an successful arts and music program at Fillmore Arts Center that has long filled the lack of exposure of there arts at various schools in the system. Chancellor Henderson’s budget for the 2016-17 school year eliminates vital funding for this resource school that serves 1,700 students at five elementary schools, two located in Ward 2: Ross Elementary School and Hyde-Addison Elementary School. Fillmore also serves Marie Reed in Ward 1 and Stoddert and Key in Ward 3.

I recently toured Duke Ellington School for the Arts. Ellington is also a Ward 2 school serving the entire city as an application high school. For students to be accepted at Ellington, they must demonstrate proficiency--if not mastery--of music, art, dance, or drama by the eighth grade. Ellington has produced incredibly successful students, including Dave Chappelle and Samira Wiley of “Orange is the New Black” fame. Ellington students go on to competitive post-secondary schools like Juilliard School.

In speaking earlier this month with Ellington’s Head of School, Desepe de Vargas, I asked about the students from Maryland and Virginia who pay tuition and attend Ellington. Ms. de Vargas confirmed that Ellington accepts a number of MD and VA students because there are not enough proficient DC students to fill Ellington’s orchestra. One has to wonder what limits our DCPS students in having the necessary preparation to attend this school.

I strongly urge DC Public Schools to build well rounded elementary and middle school art, music, and drama programs--like Fillmore--to nurture a love of art in our students. The continued success of Ellington is conditional on instituting robust art programs long before high school. Fillmore has the added benefit of pooling resources so that musical instruments, expensive art tools, and dance space are available for students, none of which are feasible at the independent elementary schools they currently serve.

Fillmore parents have started a petition seeking continued funding for the program, which I have signed and urge you to sign; and Councilmembers Jack Evans and Mary Cheh have sent a letter requesting that DCPS restore Fillmore’s funding.

Fillmore has demonstrated its success. It makes much more sense to replicate that success across the District, rather than eliminate this unique program that has filled gaps for schools and demographics that lack the facilities and or funding resources. Fillmore should be duplicated and expanded, not eliminated. The future of our city depends on investing in our students today.

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