Sunday, September 14, 2008

Keeping the Arts in Front of the School Board

Here is a very good article by a PTA Music Education supporter that articulates just how to keep the arts in front on the School Board and make the message meaningful enough to get them to not flinch in the face of economic difficulties.

I am hearing reports from all over SW Iowa about the impending student count (coming up October 1) and all the numbers are showing many significant decreases. Small schools are getting hit the hardest. Red Oak, 1300 students, is loosing 30, but Nishna Valley, 500 students, is loosing 35.

I have no reason to believe that SW Iowa is any different than any area of the state of Iowa. This is most definitely a harbinger of problems for elementary and middle school arts programs come this spring. Each student lost translates to $5,300 lost to the school district. Thus, 35 student lost in the count means a loss of $185,500.

Why are elementary and middle school areas being hit the hardest? The community won't stand for not having a band on the field for half time, or a pep band in the stands for the basketball game. Most vocal music programs have groups who get out into the community and entertain the clubs, service organizations and many retired citizens. The school musical production is always filled to the rafters with audience members. The high school art program has many exhibits that the public invited to see and discuss. High school theatre and speech contest cost the district very little to offer, yet the number of qualified people willing to step up and take the leadership is growing smaller and smaller

Where calls for help to IAAE have come from centers in the elementary and middle school programs. Elimination of elementary art and music teachers, and then bringing music and art teachers from the high school to take those places, but in a diminished capacity.

Teachers of the arts in all schools of Iowa must begin now to realize the impending fight we are all going to up against when these numbers begin to hit next years school budgets. If teachers of the arts don't have a strong and aggressive advocacy program in place now, and have begun to implement the elements of that plan, they most assuredly will be blind sided by administration and board considerations next spring during budget time.

It is my experience that most of our arts teachers have their heads securely buried in the sand believing that advocacy is not what they are paid to do. Numbers do make a difference and no matter how important we feel that arts are in the lives of Iowa children, dollars are the numbers that pay the bills.

Teachers of the arts must know what that count is on October 1 and how the numbers have changed over last year and in the past five years. Do the math and see how this is effecting your district financially.

If you are a teacher who has a hurt in your stomach about what may happen to your program, now is the time to do something about it. Doing nothing will do nothing but hurt children who want and need what we teach. Developing and directing an advocacy program IS the responsibility of each teacher of the arts and their department whether we like it or not. It was not taught to us in our college program, we must learn to do it ourselves: with the help of IAAE

Does your school district have a "Arts Matters Coalition"? Do you have an Arts Advocacy program for your district?

Larry Brandstetter

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