Under the budget crisis, school districts across the state have asked students to put down their paint brushes and pick up No. 2 pencils for their standardized tests.

However, with the help of area nonprofit organizations, Parent Teacher Association groups and business officials, money will be pumped back to art programs, helping our next generations to flex some creative muscles, reports Jill Tucker in the San Francisco Chronicle.

As Tucker states in her story, maintaining funding for arts has always been a challenge. In 1978, Proposition 13, a property tax cap, was approved and dried up public funding for arts. In 1997, Superintendent Delaine Eastin was on board and reinstated more arts education in classrooms. Later, Governor. Gray Davis pumped $10 million in the Arts in Education program and the PTA also launched “Bring Back the Arts” campaign.

When I look back on my early education growing up in Northern California, I can always remember the painting projects, museum trips, dance classes, school plays and in-class art docents who helped pave the way for my future. I am a firm believer that taking drama in elementary, middle and high school helped shape my social skills and taught me to be outspoken, engaged and comfortable meeting new people — all marketable skills when it comes to entering the job world.

This was during my time, and as a child growing up in this public education system, my teachers took full advantage and made sure my classes saw creative elements within it.

Students today yet seems far away from art.

In Long Beach, Renaissance High School for the Arts---a public, inner city high school that offers a range of art classes and programs---is eliminating its Video Production Program. It is hands on job-training course that teaches students about filmmaking, television production and newsgathering.

But, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

With the help of donors and community organizations, such as Create CA and the California Arts Council, a reform is slowly coming into place. Two pending bills in the state legislature are trying to add art into the state's scorecard used to evaluate schools, which forces school's grade to base on more than bubble tests, but including arts, which can be good news.

In my opinion, art is what builds character, confidence and problem-solving skills. Isn’t that an essential part of building a healthy economy?

Stephanie Minasian is a fellow with New America Media's Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.