2009-10: Against Cutting Art and Music Programs in Schools
By Olivia Houck
Notre Dame Preparatory High School, Scottsdale
Due to fear of financial strain, cuts of music and art programs in public elementary schools have become a more frequent occurrence. Overall, reports have shown that the percentage of kids with access to music has declined 50% in the past five years (Neives 1), and studies have also presented the fact that reduction in arts costs schools money. The study of music, theatre, and other forms of art have been shown to stimulate other parts of student’s minds and even keep them out of gangs and other harmful situations. Statistics from a nationwide survey by the Gallup organization show that, “95% percent of Americans believe that music is a key-component in a child’s well-rounded education, 80% percent of respondents agreed that music makes the participants smarter; 78% believe that learning a musical instrument helps students perform better in other subject areas; and 88% believe participation in music helps teach children discipline” (Hurley 3), it is apparent that music and art programs in schools are crucial in children’s education.
Those who oppose art and music programs in schools argue that budgeting and financial troubles are the main cause of the elimination of these programs. In New York, “Three-quarters of principles said that funding remains a major challenge in their ability to maintain lively arts programs” (Hernandez 2). Nationwide, schools have been focusing on reading and math testing requirements that were issued by “No Child Left Behind,” a law created by President Bush. Some states, such as Vermont and California have even doubled or tripled time spent on their reading and math classes to ensure that they do not fall behind the requirements that are continuously being raised by other schools (Dillon 1). “About 125 of the school's lowest-performing students are barred from taking anything except math, reading and gym, a measure that Samuel Harris, a former lieutenant colonel in the Army who is the school's principal, said was draconian but necessary” (Dillon 1). Although these opposing arguments do hold some truth, the real truth is held in the statistics and opinions of others who have been personally and positively affected by art and music programs in their schools.
While the worry that art and music programs may put an added financial burden on schools, it has been shown that the reduction in arts costs schools money. Schools have to hire additional staff members to execute the disciplinary issues that are increasing among students. Martin Rayala, an art, media and design consultant for the Department of Public Instruction said, “Within two to three years, every school that cuts arts showed a decrease in morale and attendance and an increase in vandalism and disruptions, and within three years most of them had to add extensive disciplinary staff to account for the problems that were created by not providing the full range of experiences that human beings need” (Hurley 2). Also, another school called Westside Academy has to return a $25,000 grant for its music program that was donated by VH1’s Save the Music Program. The cause of this is because Westside Academy does not employ a full-time music teacher anymore. This argument shows how cuts in art and music programs in schools may be initiating an even larger financial inconvenience than when these programs existed.
The dwindling number of schools that support art and music programs is believed by some to be affected by lack of funding and money. But, a benefit of having arts programs in schools is for the positive impact is has on students. The College Entrance Examination Board from Princeton, N.J., came to the conclusion that, “Students with coursework/experience in music performance and music appreciation scored higher on the SAT: students in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math, and students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on the math, than did students with no arts participation” (“Dumbing Down…”). Not only do these opportunities to participate in art programs strengthen student’s learning skills, they provide other alternatives for them to spend their free-time. Nichol Luebrun from Washington Prep School said, “Sticking with the choir and band was an escape from hanging out with gang members and smoking marijuana. But the band and choir gave me more than just something to do. They changed my life. They instilled in me a love of music. They taught me discipline, perseverance, leadership, and boldness. I am proud to say that this past year I became the first person in my family to graduate from high school and attend college” (Nieves 3).
The cutting of fine arts programs in schools is also present in the Arizona school systems. This March, the Humboldt Unified School District Governing Board decided to reduce the elementary music program so that students will have music one a week next year instead of twice a week (Rhoden 1). Parent Kendal Healey recently withdrew her son from a charter school and enrolled him in HUSD because the music and arts programs attracted her. She said, “If you make these cuts, the only option I may have is to put my son back in a charter school” (Rhoden 1). Board member, Shelly Damschroder, says, “Music is a different issue. I am more hesitant to cut music; it plays an important role. I agree this is only a start.” Other board members agree that cuts such as these are only the tip of the iceberg for HUSD and other Arizona schools (Rhoden 1).
Art and music programs in schools provide a different kind of learning environment that supplies alternative activities, while avoiding gangs and other temptations for students everywhere. While many believe financial burdens cause their schools from permitting these programs, they may be losing money at the same time by hiring teachers for other subjects. The arts are a way to present opportunities for jobs to students and other forms of self-discipline. If opportunities are not available at school, alternatives can start at home; by a simple art project at home with a young child, through extracurricular music, dance, or art classes. Interest can be sparked at an early age even in the simplest of ways. This is an important state issue that public officials handled poorly, seeing how arts programs are so beneficial to children.
Dillon, Sam. "Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math." 26 Mar. 2006. 16 Nov. 2008 <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/26/education/26child.html>.
Hernandez, Javier C. "School Art Programs Survive Budget Woes." 7 Nov. 2008 <http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/15/school-art-programs-survive-as-budgets-shr...>.
Hurley, Ryan. "Cuts in Art Programs Leave Sour Note in Schools." 14 Nov. 2008 <http://www.weac.org/capitol/2003-04/jun04/arts.htm>.
Nieves, Anne-Marie. "Advocates Gather at Public Hearings on September 9 to Contest Further Cuts to Music Education Programs in CA Schools." 7 Nov. 2008 <http://www.amc-music.com/news/pressreleases/ca-crisis.htm>.