When parents enroll their children in public school, they bring their highest hopes and aspirations for their children's future. California public schools receive all children equally with the goal of preparing them to succeed academically, to become responsible citizens, to contribute in a meaningful way to society, and to reach their highest potential.

Parents look for schools within their district that offer arts education. The arts are often described as enrichment; as an "extra" to the core curriculum.

Unfortunately, this perception has become the norm because of years of inadequate public school funding. Arts education is just as important as education in the academic core subjects of reading, mathematics, history and science.

The arts are part of a well-rounded education that exposes students to the richness of learning that includes textbooks and online research, meaningful hands-on experiences and creative endeavors.

Research in how the brain functions has taught us that there are parts of the brain activated by music and the arts. In fact, experience in the arts accelerates learning in other areas.

Children who are having difficulty in mathematics benefit from studying the spatial relationships associated with learning to read music. Students who have difficulty reading textbooks benefit from reading the words to a song during choral music instruction.

Arts education exposes children to the richness of our human

capabilities. Children who are fortunate enough to receive arts education respond in ways that demonstrate their potential for artistic endeavor. The arts draw out our ability to understand our life's journey and to appreciate the beauty in ourselves and in our world.

Every time I visit the arts programs in our Rowland schools, I am impressed by the creative talents of our students. Educators and parents seek to tap into this potential to make sure that their hopes and dreams are realized. We have seen how public schools are funded in California, and there is a definite balancing act required to retain arts education.

Our governor included funding for the arts during his early years in office. Yet, when the fiscal crisis pressed districts to make decisions regarding budget priorities, the arts often were low on the priority list.

State funding for the arts was relegated to local school boards who were forced to determine what would be preserved. Districts across California have faced painful decisions about which part of a well-rounded education would be eliminated.

I believe every district should create a road map to ensure arts education is integrated into core educational programs. I will always remember the night I attended a poetry performance at Nogales High School.

Despite the torrential rainstorm outside the theater, every seat was filled. Parents and students crowded the aisles. Every person - poet, parent, patron - experienced the power of poetry. Opportunities such as this strengthen a student's academic preparation needed for college and beyond. As affirmation, one of those student poets recently received a full college scholarship due to her excellence in the art of poetry.

We are a fortunate school district. We are celebrating our 30th Anniversary of our Music Bus Program, which serves as classrooms on wheels providing instrumental instruction to our elementary students.

We invite the community to come see and hear how this program has impacted more than 25,000 students through the years. On Saturday at Rowland High School, from 9a.m. to 4:30 p.m., there will be a Music-A-Thon fundraiser, where music groups from across the district will perform and students will raise funds with pledges of a dollar per minute they perform.

Our public schools need the support of parents, community members, businesses, and our elected officials who understand that the definition of a well-educated student is more than numbers on a standardized test.

Scores represent a small part of a much larger profile of achievement. The arts are essential to public education. Every member of our community should advocate for acceptable funding levels for public schools.

Maria Ott is superintendent of Rowland Unified School District