Elementary Strings Cut is Punitive and Too Much

Cuts of 10% to elementary music and art and 100% to elementary strings are being proposed by the administration. The overall MMSD budget cut needed is 2%. The School Board has not discussed or asked questions about the proposed cut list at any public meeting since they received the list on March 3rd – that’s nearly two months now. Rather School Board members are “selling Art Rainwater’s proposed cut list.” Board members are “making excuses” why there are increases to the administrative contract budget, save all extracurricular sports for kids, unecessarily dividing rather than bringing together parent and professionals to work on what we can do for all kids and fairly. Rather, our board says, we can’t do anything else – it’s because the state does not give the school district enough money. Our board membes are not asking the question – what’s academic, how will this affect children’s learning, how have the administrators worked with teachers and other relevant professionals to minimize the impact on children. If they asked this about elementary strings and fine arts education – the answer would be that they have done nothing. I expect the answer is the same for many other academic areas.

MMSD’s elementary strings course is academic and is one of those courses where the proposed cut is punitive and out of line with the overall budget cuts. Strings is well-established, much loved part of the district’s music education curriculum plan approved by the Madison School Board. State law requires local school boards to approve curriculum plans – Madison’s music education plan follows national, state and local standards for the study of music. Making changes to curriculum plans need to involve professionals in the field, need to follow a best practice process so that the impact on children’s learning is minimized. Administrators with schedule sheets and dollar spreadsheets doesn’t work.
Not only are the cuts to fine arts education heavier than any other academic area, they were made without asking the question: “What will be the impact on children’s learning?” There are no existing processes and procedures in writing in place in the district to change curriculum plans – and it shows in the recommended cuts put before the school board. All we have is a Superintendent working with top administrators who work with more administrators – professionals in the variouls fields are not included. Any other business that worked this way would fail. So, why would we settle for less for our kids?
We need to do everything we can – if the School Board backs away from their responsibility, the community needs to step in. In the case of fine arts education, I believe we need to do that now.