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August 24, 2018
Polk County Public Schools leads many neighboring school districts when it comes to student enrollment in fine arts programs.
More than 62 percent of Polk students are enrolled in fine arts programs, ranking ahead of Hillsborough, Pasco and Osceola counties. In addition, Polk County Public Schools has a higher fine arts enrollment than the statewide figure of 57.1 percent.
Those highlights are among the findings in 2017-18 State of the Arts report, compiled by Polk County Public Schools’ Fine Arts department.
The report notes that every public school in Polk County offers arts education. Additionally, all students in Polk’s elementary schools receive a minimum 50 minutes of instruction each week in visual arts and music as a district requirement. The district has steadily increased its employment of fine arts teachers, with more than 360 working in our schools today; new teachers also have been hired to bolster arts education for students with special needs.
“The data continues to prove that arts education crosses economic and social strata to meet the needs of students, and Polk County is focusing on removing barriers such as cost and transportation so all students can participate in the arts,” said Beth Cummings, director of fine arts for Polk County Public Schools.
The 2017-18 State of the Arts report, produced with data from the Florida Department of Education and Center for Fine Arts Education, emphasizes the value of the arts in students’ lives. Students who participate in the fine arts have higher GPAs and SAT scores than those who don’t, and the high school graduation rate of fine arts students in Florida is 92 percent, compared to the overall state figure of 75 percent.
“The arts mean business! Not-for-profit arts in Polk County alone generate over $46 million dollars of revenue,” Cummings said. “The arts move beyond creating exceptional artists — they teach us to be human, to recognize beauty; to have more love, compassion, gentleness and more ‘good.’ In short, the arts improve our quality of life.”