NJ becomes first state to make sure all public school kids have access to art classes

Justin Udo
September 09, 2019 - 5:15 pm

Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Arts education in New Jersey just reached a major milestone: New Jersey's Arts Ed Now program has helped the state become the first in the country to make sure all its students have access to art education.

"This did not happen over night. This has been a 15-year effort," said Bob Morrison, the program's director. 

Since the start of the program, they've seen a surge of students interested in the arts.

"Not only have we reduced the number of students without access to arts instruction from 77,000 to 0, but we've seen an increase in participation from 65 percent of all students to 81 percent," he added. 

The state's universal access to arts education means that now, all K-12 students in the state have the opportunity to take visual, performing or culinary arts classes.


Crediting the arts for helping to mold him, Gov. Phil Murphy stressed the importance the arts have in other classes as well as outside of school. It's reach, he said, spreads beyond an instrument or a play.

"We don't assume that it is essentially important to your education, that it will increase productivity in the economic sense or lead to visionary leadership within any given industry. But it does," the governor said. 

"Art instruction helps children with the development of motor skills, language skills, social skills, decision making, risk taking and inventiveness," Murphy added. "It teaches you to collaborate, persevere, and focus." 

State officials say research shows a compelling connection between the arts and achievement in school, as well as after graduation.

Murphy credits the state's arts education with helping New Jersey rank as a the best public school system in the county, according to a recent poll.

Officials now want to make sure students have a diverse options when it comes to their arts concentrations.