A punk-rock councilman in this major city is pushing for more music and art education in public schools as statistics show bleak findings.
It might seem like someone has watched School of Rock one too many times, or they could possibly just be onto something really good. Either way, one New York City-based punk-rock councilman is urging the major city’s education department to ramp up music and art education. In the proposal, the Brooklyn rocker-turned-politician wants to see at least three hours of weekly education devoted to the subjects he feels have been largely left behind in the city’s public education.
Justin Brannan has largely left his days of playing in a world-touring band behind. Now, the punk rock councilman spends most of his time advocating for his native city’s education. Earlier this month, the punk-rock councilman introduced a resolution that called upon the Department of Education to guarantee substantial music and arts education for all city students from Kindergarten to fifth grade. In its text, the resolution asks for at least three hours of music and art lessons per week for students.
The 43-year-old punk-rock councilman told the New York Post that the resolution was a personal issue for him. “Music unlocked an endless amount of opportunities for me,” Brannan said. Brannan, who has gone on two world tours and traveled to over 60 countries with his former rock bands exclaimed how his guitar lessons at McKinley Junior High School in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, NY were what set off his musical career.
But a passion for music isn’t the only thing helping the punk-rock councilman advance his effort. During his proposal, Brannan backed his demands up with research and data. Moreso, he pointed to the lack of extracurricular attention given to public education in the city over time. “We’ve gotta end the era of public school art and music being viewed as ‘extra’ instead of essential. All New York City kids deserve to have a high-quality art and music education,” he exclaimed. The resolution made note of the dismal teachings of music and art within New York City schools. Less than half of all the city’s elementary schools have full-time certified music teachers, and even fewer certified art teachers.
Similarly, the punk-rock councilman discussed the benefits that music and art instruction play in public education. Brannan used research that shows that music and art education is crucial in childhood development to form better learning habits, and communication skills, and at improving kid’s confidence and self-control. It’s a big issue to Brannan and the other backers of the legislation, as reports found that during the 2018-2019 school year, 10% of the city’s some 1800 schools failed to give any type of music instruction to students grades 1 through 5. In arts, 3% of the schools failed to offer visual art courses.
New York City isn’t the only school district in the U.S. noticing a declining trend in non-core subject teachings. Around the nation, it is being reported that music education is declining in public schools. Furthermore, the pandemic has elevated that level. Some can argue that the alarming rate at which students are falling behind in core subjects could be a cause, but others, like the punk-rock councilman in Brooklyn, feel that these subjects are just as important to teach.
Brannan has received quite a bit of support for his resolution. Kimberly Olsen, the executive director of NYC Arts in Education Roundtable, called the punk-rock councilman’s legislation “an important step towards transforming our city’s schools by ensuring that equity and excellence in education starts with the arts.” While city officials were unable to provide an estimate of what his music and arts resolution might cost, things still look hopeful for Brannan and others. A Department of Education spokesperson told him that arts remain “critically important” for the education of elementary students as the city emerged from the pandemic.