THOUGH short money has limited the offerings of sports, drama, music, art and other "non- basics" in today's public school curriculum, Washington's teachers and students still manage to demonstrate regularly that there is life and also talent in the system. And if past performances are any measure, scores of young actors, singers, dancers and artists will prove it with two more hit shows this afternoon at their annual "Maxi Arts Gala" at Howard University's Cramton auditorium.

This is the 12th year of these stage shows/arts fairs, which are sponsored by the D.C. Congress of Parents and Teachers and two civic groups active in charitable efforts, the local chapters of The Continental Societies, Inc., and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority. The art exhibits have featured the works of all ages from elementary through high school, and have included paintings, graphics, ceramics, sculpture, photography and crafts.

Those performances we have seen in the past have been fast-paced showcases of polished acts, encouraged by hard-working teachers and enthusiastically supported by the performers' families. This year's repertoire also includes special performances from the Howard University drama department's eye-popping production last month of "The Wiz." In addition students will be modeling fashions that they have designed.

Leaders of the D.C. Congress say they detect a definite connection between the onstage and academic achievements of the students who, with encouragement and coaching, are learning not only to budget their time wisely but also to look forward to their school experiences. Many of the performers have gone on to win scholarships toward their careers.

Today they will be looking to the public for support. Those who lend it in the audience are due for an enjoyable dividend on their investment.