A first-of-its-kind study outlines the actual costs of a comprehensive k-12 music education program. The research, funded by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation’s Sounds of Learning research initiative, calculates a cost for music education averaging $187 per student annually in the sample school district.
Mark L. Fermanich of the Center for Education Policy Analysis in the School of Public Affairs, now part of the Buechner Institute for Governance in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, conducted the study by focusing on a school district that served over 70,000 students during the 2009-2010 school year. The district includes urban, suburban and rural schools with a total district budget of $853 million. From that $13.9 million was allocated to music education representing 1.6 percent of total district expenditures. The sample school district is moderately diverse with 25 percent minority students and 25 percent of the student population designated eligible for Title 1 funds available for low-income families. Participation in elective music programs in the district’s middle and high school levels mirror the district’s demographics, with minorities equally as likely as whites to participate.
Based on total enrollment, the study reveals that the music education costs average $187 per student annually. Costs averaged $195 per student at the elementary level (grades 1-5) where general music, a 45-minute music class per three-day cycle, is mandatory. Per student spending in middle school averaged $189 and $143 in high school, as music instruction is elective at the secondary level.
The school district examined in this study is committed to a robust music program with general music and instrumental music offerings for all grades. The principals and teachers surveyed in the study placed a high value on music’s benefits to their students and their schools. In addition to universal elementary music participation, the study found that over 50 percent of students in middle school and high school participate in elective band, choir and orchestra offerings. The study also found that these core education funds gave these schools better access to quality music instruction. Additionally, participation in school music programs correlated to lowered drop out rates and higher school engagement.
“This study represents only a first step,” said Fermanich. “Much more can be learned through more complete research into financing and resource uses of music and other arts programs.”