- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Acclaimed opera singer Simon Estes joined forces with fine arts lobbyists Wednesday to urge lawmakers to include arts in Iowa’s statewide educational standards.

Estes, along the executive director of the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education, shared his experiences with the fine arts and called for adding them to the Iowa Core Curriculum in a presentation before the Senate Education Committee.

Estes said the arts are vital in schools, and students need instruction in topics ranging from painting and sculpting to singing and playing an instrument.

“We have to make room if necessary,” he said. “We need to let these people develop their skills. We’ll all be better people for it.”

Estes, a native of Centerville who has performed around the world, said his successful career wouldn’t have been possible if not for an educator at the University of Iowa who discovered his talent at age 23.



Estes spent the day at the Capitol, singing for both the House and Senate and meeting with legislative leaders before testifying at the committee hearing.

The Iowa Core Curriculum was implemented in 2008 as a means of establishing academic expectations for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The curriculum focuses on the needs of the student with an emphasis on math, science, English, language arts and social studies.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, who heads the committee, said arts belong with the other subjects already included in the curriculum. Arts promote hard work and foster a spirit of teamwork, he said.

“I’m a strong supporter of fine arts education,” said Quirmbach, D-Ames. “This very much needs to have a rightful place on the list.”

Leon Kuehner, the alliance’s executive director, created a set of documents that align with the core curriculum in an effort to provide fine arts teachers with resources to align their instruction to state standards. Use of the documents is not required by all schools and districts.

He said his goal now is simply to see the arts added to the other subjects already included and demonstrate their value as a pathway to success for students.

“We need to celebrate the arts in the state of Iowa,” Kuehner said.

A subcommittee approved a bill Wednesday that includes the arts in the core curriculum.

Quirmbach said he hopes the bill will be brought before the full committee soon.

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