Music Education in MMSD Needs Help from the Madison Community

Music education in Madison’s public schools has been on the chopping block for the past four years, beginning with the Superintendent’s proposed cut to Grade 4 strings. All the proposed cuts were made without any planning for changes, and the harshest cuts came this year, again without any planning for change among the key stakeholders and those most affected by the change – our children. This past year, in the absence of a fine arts coordinator, a team of teachers was to be put into place to oversee fine arts education – this did not happen but an interim fine arts coordinator was hired in the spring. Perhaps it’s time for the community to form a task force to collaborate on future directions and an educational framework for music education in our public schools?
This spring 60% of the elementary string staff was cut – 4 FTEs will teach nearly 2,000 children in 27 schools next year, 10% of the elementary music staff was cut and instrumental and vocal music were proposed for afterschool at Sherman Middle School.

All these cuts and changes were proposed by the Superintendent to the School Board without first directing his staff to undertake any curriculum planning with key stakeholders. None of his proposed cuts followed any curriculum evaluation and redesign of curriculum plans to minimize the impact of cuts on a) children’s learning and b) teachers. Nor are there any current plans for an assessment of music education in grades K-12 for the district since these cuts were put into place. Perhaps it’s time to take this planning step.
Music education, along with challenging academics, sports, foreign language and other fine arts education, are found in schools of excellence. Any changes in light of financial constraints need to be made following a careful process that includes key stakeholders so that we make decisions that will keep our students and their families in our schools and provide the best education for our children we can under the current challenging financial environment. Administrators are needed in that process but they are not sufficient to ensure an outcome that is best for our children’s learning.