Action and Help Needed: I am beginning to work with some parents and others in the community to raise awareness and possibly financial support for all fine arts education. If you are interested in learning more, or would like to help, let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org or 231-3954). I will be posting on the blog more of what we are doing, including surveys and petitions of support.
Due to the proposed budget gap for next year and the Superintendent’s preliminary discussion idea to cut up to $300,000 from elementary strings, our focus will be on this course in the short-term. Elementary strings is only one piece of Fine Arts Education, but there is no other organization that teaches so many low income children how to play an instrument for about $200 per child vs. $2,000 per child in private instruction. We would like to resolve this issue this spring, working collaboratively with the administration and the school board.
The School Board would like proposals from the community re supporting elementary strings. I have begun working with parents and others on this topic, and I welcome ideas and support from readers of this blog. In addition to various proposals for School Board consideration, which I’m being encouraged to submit, we feel there is a need to raise awareness of the importance of a strong, vibrant standards-based, academic fine arts education. For an instrumental curriculum that meets national and state standards, course instruction begins in Grade 4 and classes are held at least twice weekly during the day.
The demand for elementary strings from parents and students has been and continues to be strong; but sadly, I feel the administration (not the School Board) has been a barrier to moving forward in partnership with the community, preferring each year to cut and to whittle away the course each year rather than gather the community together to bring ideas and solutions to the table. Last November, I asked District Administration for the following basic information: number of elementary string students, number of FTEs, number of middle and high school band and string students, number of FTEs, and revenue collected. I have not received this information, which I need to work on proposals, even though I have asked for the information repeatedly. The administration may have a lot on their plate, but I was only asking for basic information needed to develop some proposals for board consideration. I thought, perhaps the administration is working on their own proposals to continue this course, but that is not the case.
Up until a few years ago, there were nearly 2,000 4th and 5th grade students taking elementary strings, 30-40% of these children were low income (600+ children). During the 1990s, as the district’s low income population increased, enrollment in elementary strings doubled from about 1,000 students in 1991 to more than 1,900 in after the year 2000.
Elementary strings has been part of the Madison schools for more than 40 years. Growing school districts around Madison offer this course, and the enrollment is growing. Grandparents and parents who live in Madison took this course when they were in elementary school. The large string festival is one of other opportunities that make our elementary schools unique. If we want to keep parents sending their children to Madison, and to keep the needed diversity in our schools, I think this course is important and unique to Madison.
I hope some of you will join me in supporting a vibrant fine arts education for our children and working on proposals for elementary strings. Thank you for reading this blog item,
Background: In December 2006, Supt. Rainwater wrote a memo to the School Board outlining ideas for discussion for possible cuts to balance the budget. Not only is the District facing budget cuts from revenue caps but there is a structural deficit in the budget of about $6 million.
The Superintendent provided the School Board with a list of possibilities – one more troubling than the other. For example, increased class sizes, was on the list. A couple of weeks ago, the School Board discussed increasing class sizes, including increases in class sizes for specials.
On the list was a specific recommendation to cut up to $300,000 from strings. In checking with the Superintendent, he said the amount was for elementary strings.