In the May 24 referendum for the operating budget, voters will determine whether the Madison schools will have an additional $7.4 million to spend next year and for all the years thereafter. Superintendent Art Rainwater and the management team issued a cut list in March. According to Rainwater, the board should cut the programs, staff and expenses on this list if the referendum fails. http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/budget/mmsd/0506/2005-06_Budget_Discussion_Items.pdf
Before the referendum election, the school board can take items off of the cut list. One of the items that should come off the list is the proposed elimination of the elementary strings program, a program that costs $500,000 within a budget of more than $350 million.
There are at least five good reasons why the board should support the strings program and direct Superintendent Rainwater to make other cuts to save these dollars.
Reason 1: Music programs help close the minority student achievement gap. Music programs integrated into the academic curriculum are proving that they increase the academic achievement of minority and low income students, in particular. For this reason, the Ford Foundation is currently funding music and art programs in many school districts nationally.
Reason 2: Federal funding is available for expanded music programs. Music and other fine arts programs integrated into the academic curriculum can bring in federal dollars under the No Child Left Behind Act, as they have in the Tucson, Arizona and New York City school districts.
Reason 3: Eliminating programs like elementary strings adds to the differences between have and have-nots in Madison. When districts eliminate music programs, the harm falls mainly on low income children. Recently University of Wisconsin Music Professor Richard Davis assessed the proposed cut in the Madison schools. He said,�underprivileged children will suffer the most,� says Davis. �It�s another way of letting only those who can afford it get the opportunities. The fear is that you�re going to have a very one-sided, warped community, where one world will have all of the exposure and sophistication, and the other world won�t.”
Reason 4: Strings programs are essential preparation for good jobs in the future in Madison. The City of Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are investing together to develop Madison as a national and international venue for the performing arts. Pulling the strings training program out from under our low income and minority students in 2005 will keep these children from getting the good jobs and careers that come with that development. Families with economic means will be able to prepare their children from the new arts-focused economy in Madison. Other families will be left out.
Reason 5: There are many economic alternatives to this cut. The school board has many, sound alternatives to eliminating the elementary strings program as a way of saving $500,000. Think about the size of the cut. Out of a budget of more than $350 million, the cost of the elementary strings program is 0%. Combinations of small cuts in discretionary accounts used for purchasing outside services and consultants, conferences and staff travel expenses, supplies and equipment or the �miscellaneous� accounts of district departments would cover the cost of elementary strings and other classroom programs now on the cut list.
Please contact your school board members at email@example.com as soon as possible. Register your opposition to cutting this important program for our students. Our young musicians need your help now. You can also express your opposition by speaking to the school board at a rally on May 2. For more information about the rally, contact Barbara Schrank at firstname.lastname@example.org.