Strings Fee – Summary of Discussion at Monday, May 10th School Board Meeting

School Board President Bill Keys is proposing that elementary strings students will have to pay $460 to take strings next year. There has been no proposal to cut the program, administrators and Board members alike say. However, a $460 fee would have the same effect.

I attended the Monday, May 10, 2004 MMSD School Board meeting and shook my head in disbelief as I listened to Mr. Keys explain his reasons for coming in with a recommendation for a string fee because after all the district needs money. His reasons included:
a) Parents ought to be willing to pay for the cost of the service if they value it so much. He didn�t suggest that hockey parents should be paying $1600 because they value hockey. He didn�t mention paying towards social workers and psychologists so that we can keep reasonable student/professional ratios. He made no mention of putting decisions on a fair playing field, reviewing all fees for information about their structure, what�s reasonable,
b) Elementary strings is redundant and and overlaps with general music so it�s not required. Mr. Keys did not have the information regarding past board decisions that approving elementary strings as part of the MMSD music education curriculum and the Board has not questioned nor changed this curriculum. Additionally, the district has no written processes and procedures for developing, assessing and changing curriculum in any systematic manner,
c) I�m starting high from a negotiating standpoint. I�m not sure who he�s negotiating with, where these negotiations are to take place. I�m not sure how much experience 9 and 10 year olds have with negotiation. I�m sure the parents see this as extortion rather than a starting point for a negotiation � isn�t a premise of negotiation fair and reasonable,
d) Bill Keys said he talked with Roger Price about his recommendation, who thought adding $500,000 back in the school�s budget for cleaning and maintenance sounded reasonable (it�s Roger�s budget, of course it sounds reasonable to him). Bill K. did not seem to feel that it would be just as appropriate to talk to the Fine Arts Coordinator nor it would seem members of the Overture Board of which he is a member.
Ruth Robarts questioned why, if the district needed money for cleaning, everyone wouldn�t contribute to paying for these costs. Carol Carstensen questioned whether this might discourage children from participating in the curriculum � the point of a fee is to defray costs but not to obliterate participation. Either Ruth or Carol asked if there were no takers at $500 what�s the point since you wouldn�t have clean schools and you wouldn�t have a program (but maybe that�s someone’s point if you took a look at the information provided to Keys from the Administration). After these gentle, but pointed questions for clarification, did Bill rethink his idea? Nope, he thought it was just fine as it was.