According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Web site, “At least 47 states faced or are facing shortfalls in their budgets for this and/or the next year or two. Combined budget gaps for the remainder of this fiscal year and state fiscal years 2010 and 2011 are estimated to total more than $350 billion.” I have seen firsthand the effects of the cost-cutting measures within my son’s middle school, as several highly-skilled and well-liked academic teachers have been given pink slips. The music program was spared this downsizing, although many parents were quite nervous throughout the process. One person whom I hold in very high regard, Dr. John Benham is, unfortunately, quite busy now due to the fact that he is applying his expertise in saving school music programs.
Two important points, among many others, stand out within Dr. Benham’s approach, and they are political power and a sound economic argument. The power is in the numbers, and the more people who are marshaled and represented in support of music education, the greater chance there is surviving of an economic cut. It’s hard to ignore a well-organized group of parents and students who show up at a school board meeting to let the superintendent know that they don’t want to lose their children’s music program.
The economic argument John makes is that the music educator is often one of the most “efficient” teachers in terms of the number of students they have in their classroom. It’s not unusual for a choral, band, or orchestra director to teach 200 or more students during each day, which is significantly more than most other academic classroom teachers. Once these students are displaced, however, they need someplace to go, and therein lies the problem. Benham’s argument shows, through a cogent economic analysis, that it often costs the school system more money than that which is saved by cutting the music program. Dr. Benham can be reached through his Web site, www.musicinworldcultures.com.
Lastly, the informative Web site, www.supportmusic.com, which is supported through a coalition of music associations, organizations, and companies, including NAMM, MENC, DCI, ASCAP, Yamaha, Guitar Center, Grammy Foundation, and dozens of others, provides a wealth of news, ideas, and resources for anyone with concerns about their school music program.