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Dana Grant Morris

A Case Study: Dialogues Regarding The Politics and Funding of Arts Programming In One Chicago Public Elementary School

            This thesis examines how the dynamics of administrative hierarchy affect the decision-making that occurs in a public school, as it pertains to arts programming. In an attempt to gain better insight into this complex phenomenon, I conducted a case study at a Chicago Public School. My main objective, as an arts educator and arts administrator, is to better understand why the arts are not generally valued in public education and are, therefore, relegated to a marginalized status with a subsequent lack of adequate funding.

            In this case study, I utilized both standardized and dialogical interviews to comprehend the personal philosophies of five people who have been identified as influential with the school’s curriculum and possess the potential to affect the prioritization of arts funding within the school’s larger curriculum.

            As background for my research, I examined the history of arts programming in public schools and educational movements from the 1930’s to the present. Through my investigation of arts programming history, I intended to identify trends and key factors that can inform possible interventions into the processes that determine funding.

            Through the interviews I conducted with teachers and administrators, I attempted to answer questions about the persons and structures which effect change, the disappearance of arts programming from public schools, and what is being done to promote art as a core academic subject essential to education.

            The personal interviews have allowed me to better understand the complex issues that arise when dealing with politics and funding, specifically during economic recessions, such as we are currently experiencing in this country. I also attempted to answer the question, “When schools are struggling with arts funding, what means can they use to advocate for art?” Key to my research was the investigation of federal, state and local governmental policies, both past and present, which have had an influence on arts funding in education.

          Not unlike other presidents, 'President George W. Bush and Congress recently signed a new education act into law, the No Child Left Behind Act, that officially sanctions the arts as a core academic subject, entitling arts education to increased federal funds. Only time will tell if this marks a victory for arts learning.

          President Lyndon Johnson signed the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act  in 1965 (ESEA). President Reagan assembled the National Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE) to report on the quality of education in the U.S. This resulted in a report titled, “A Nation at Risk,” stating that the educational system at the time was producing mediocre results and recommended the establishment of academic standards. President George H. Bush created the National Education Goals Panel to monitor the progress of six broad objectives to be reached by 2000 in regards to providing national support to the state and local standards. President Clinton later took many of these objectives and created and signed a new proposal called “Goals 2000: Educate America Act.” This bill created the National Education Standards and Improvement Council, with the authority to approve or reject state standards. IN 1994, President Clinton signed the Improving America’s Schools Act (IASA), which was a re-authorization and revision of the original ESEA.


            Dana Grant Morris received her B.S. in Consumer Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996. While at SAIC, she interned at the Illinois Alliance for Arts Education and at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs in the Collaborative Programming Department. Currently she works at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.


Thesis Advisor: Jerome Hausman Instructor, Art Education and Art Therapy

Thesis Reader: Angela Paterakis Professor Emeritus, Art Education

Thesis Peer Reader: Ray Yang


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