"You Gotta Have Art" might have been the theme of last week's Fairfax County school board meeting -- the motto was everywhere you looked, except on the evening's agenda.

Nearly 50 art lovers hung posters andpassed out yellow buttons with the slogan before crowding into the cramped quarters of the school board to express their displeasure with the county schools' art program.

Streesing the importance of art in a complete educational program four art educators addressed the board. Each speaker asked for an increase in the number of art teachers in grades kindergarten through 6.

Fairfax school administrators and board members admit that the four art teachers serving 126 elementary schools are inadequate, but say they are operating under tight budgetary restraints.

The art educators say those numbers work out to a ratio of one teacher for every 15,650 students, a statistic they find unacceptable.

Speaking for the National Association of Art educators, John Mahlman, of Reston, asked the board to beef up the art program in spite of budgetary constraints.

Mahlman said after the meeting that his own second grader is enrolled in private school, partly as a result of the art deficit in the Fairfax system.

Calling the Fairfax art education program "glaringly out of step" with programs in surrounding jurisdictions, Ray Wilkins, an art teacher at South Lakes High School and a member of the Northern Virginia Art Education Association, asked board members to establish art as a new priority.

School board members acknowledged deficiencies in the art program and asked the staff to report on possible improvements within the framework of the next annual budget.