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In July 2004, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) launched the Chairman's Initiative on Arts in Education. Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas will lead the initiative, The Arts – A Lifetime of Learning , commensurate with his two-year term as 2004-06 ECS chairman. Governor Huckabee is the 41st governor to serve in this prestigious position and the first to focus his initiative on the arts in education.

The goal of the ECS Chairman's Initiative on Arts in Education is to ensure every child has the opportunity to learn about, enjoy and participate in the arts . These three experiences represent what is meant by the term “arts in education.” Toward that end, state leaders have a responsibility to make – and keep ­– the arts strong in our schools.

The focus of the initiative stems from more than an appreciation of “arts for arts' sake.” While this value is of great importance, there also is compelling evidence that shows student involvement with the arts can make a significant difference in improving educational outcomes for all kids – in terms of their academic achievement, their engagement in learning, and their social and civic development.

State policymakers play a critical role in helping to realize this goal. They have the ability to raise public awareness about the importance of arts in education, call for better state-level information upon which to base decisions and demonstrate leadership through their own actions.

Under Governor Huckabee's leadership, ECS will focus on five interrelated areas – awareness, research, tools, state leadership, and the creative economy – and provide a set of objectives vital to increasing the arts' stature in education:

  1. Raise levels of public awareness and deepen understanding among state policymakers about the educational, social and civic benefits of student involvement in the arts.
  2. Call for and contribute to the development of better research and data on which to base policy decisions.
  3. Equip state policymakers with the tools to analyze and interpret state-level information related to the status and condition of arts education and instruction in schools.
  4. Support state leadership in efforts to develop policies and practices designed to improve educational outcomes for all students through school-based integration of the arts.
  5. Understand the economic importance of the arts in the creative economy and in every community.

The ECS Chairman's Initiative on Arts in Education also will undertake a number of other activities, events and publications in partnership with ECS constituents, arts organizations, and state and local community leaders. It will seek to ensure high-quality experiences for arts education are available to every child from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

Integrating the arts into education and school life benefits not only students. Ultimately, it contributes to a stronger, more innovative economy and a better quality of life for all.