Tonight (May 10, 2005) the Board of Education will discuss proposed amendments to the budget. This discussion will include a discussion of the 4th & 5th grade strings programs.
I support offering students the opportunity to take strings in 4th and 5th grade. Currently, 4th and 5th grade students who elect to take strings have two different music classes each week: general music, and strings. General music has two 30 minute classes per week, and strings meets twice a week for 45 minutes each. The strings classes are pull-out classes, which means that the students taking strings are missing another class during the time that they are out for strings.
In the event the referendum fails, I support offering 4th and 5th grade students the option of taking either general music or strings. For students who select strings, strings would be their music class and would be held at the regular music time. Strings would not be a pull-out program. I also support extending the music time for 4th and 5th grade students to 45 minutes a day, twice a week.
While 4th and 5th grade students would have access to less music education in total under this proposal, this proposal would retain the strings program for 4th and 5th grade students who elect to take the program.
I would have preferred that the District had worked with the community, including parents, students, and teachers, to develop a proposal for the future direction of the strings program. That, however, did not happen. I am now put in the position of voting on $8.6 million of budget cuts, which includes the Administration’s proposal to totally eliminate the 4th & 5th grade strings program. I cannot support that proposal. At the same time, however, I must deal with the reality of needing to cut $8.6 million. While the above proposal is by no means perfect, it does continue to give children the ability to learn and experience instrumental music (strings) in the 4th and 5th grade.
I understand that many people may be disappointed in this proposal, but even this proposal may not be acceptable to the majority of the members of the Board of Education. To date, four of the seven Board members have put the issue of 4th & 5th grade strings back on the discussion list – Ruth Robarts, Shwaw Vang, Johnny Winston, Jr., and me. However, there is not a consistent vision for the future of the program among us. Mr. Winston’s proposal, for example, is to hold strings as an afterschool activity.
I urge you to stay involved in this budget process and do what you can to influence it. However, I also urge you to focus on what is possible. Right now, my personal view is that the 4th & 5th grade strings program will only continue if there are changes to the program. Thank you for your involvement and work on this issue.