Scarlett Johansson, Lena Dunham and Mark Ruffalo are among the stars who have signed a letter to New York City politicians urging them to protect arts programs in local schools.

The actors have all added their names to a missive addressed to New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with director Lee Daniels, playwright David Auburn, former Law & Order star Richard Brooks, and Broadway veteran Danny Burstein.

The letter asks the politicians to set aside funding for arts programs in New York City schools in a bid to protect them from cuts, highlighting the importance of drama, dance and music classes for youngsters.

It reads, "We write today to... urge that the Department of Education set aside the necessary funding in the City budget to ensure that every New York City public school has a certified arts teacher and rich cultural partnerships, as part of a comprehensive curriculum.

"As professional artists and performers, we all remember the first person who opened our eyes to the magic and wonder of the arts... The arts not only build texture and depth into the City's landscape, they also help us connect to others in unique and powerful ways, and push us to grow.. We urge the Department of Education to ensure that every public school student has the chance to engage in a vibrant arts education. Let's make sure that New York City is home to tomorrow's great artists, just as it is today."