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OKLAHOMA CITY - Senate Appropriations Chairman Kelly Haney said although he agreed with Governor Frank Keating and others who argue a more thorough examination of agency budgets is needed during the appropriations process, there are agencies that continue to be under funded each year. Senator Haney said the Oklahoma Arts Council is one of those agencies.
While budgets for "vital" state services were approved, the Arts Council's entire budget for the coming year was among those vetoed by Governor Keating on March 26. The Governor said he fully expected to fund the agencies he vetoed, but perhaps at lower levels in order to fund other areas such as tax cuts.
"I agree with our Governor that there are some agencies we need to take a closer look at, and undoubtedly there are areas that could be cut. However that's not the case with the State Arts Council. The fact is, that agency is under funded," said Haney.
"Properly funding the Arts Council is vital to the future of Oklahoma for a number of reasons," noted Haney.
"We need to realize that the arts and arts education are not just luxuries without tangible benefits to our schools and communities. Study after study has shown painting, dance, music and drama can have a profound impact on a child's brain development and ability to learn," said Haney.
"In young children, exposure to music, movement, pictures and play acting is essential to their cognitive development. High school students who study the arts have higher grades and score better on standardized tests. And studies have shown that at-risk students who become involved in the arts improve their self-esteem and confidence and improve their overall school performance."
In addition to help bringing arts programs into public schools across the state, the Oklahoma Arts Council brings arts into communities, providing funding for some 68 annual festivals, pumping nearly $100,000 into local economies each year. The Arts Council also funds annual projects such as OK Mozart in Bartlesville and Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park.
Because of the Arts Council, Oklahomans across the state are able to experience live music, opera, dance, art exhibitions, drama and other programs that enrich cities and towns. For many, it is their only opportunity to experience these things.
Such programs are also a critical economic development tool. For example, Senator Haney said the presence of a symphony in Lawton was key to one company's decision to locate there rather than in another community in Texas.
"So far this budget year, The Oklahoma Arts Council has served about 173 communities in every part of our state. But with three months remaining in the fiscal year, their funding is gone. They've been forced to discontinue some programs, and even a slight budget reduction in next year's appropriation would force them to eliminate some annual events all together," explained Senator Haney.
"In Governor Keating's State of the State address, he stressed the need to make education a top priority in this state as we work to enhance our economy. I applaud his vision, but I would also add that the Oklahoma Arts Council is vital to achieving excellence in our education system and to enhancing the economy and quality of life across our state," said Haney.