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A Time to Be Proactive

Josh Harris • Archives • April 9, 2008

It’s extraordinary to think it was only in mid-2006 that the state of California announced an enormous package of $105 million in recurring funding for arts education along with a one-time award of $500 million to rebuild programs, which included funds for instruments, sports, and art equipment. Unfortunately, there has been a tectonic shift with the current sub-prime mortgage crisis, increased oil prices, the weak U.S. dollar, and an economy caught in a difficult recession, especially in California. These large packages of support for the arts are now in jeopardy and schools may be facing further cuts into normal budgets. Other states particularly hard hit include the midwestern industrial states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania well as southern states like Alabama, Mississippi, and many others. This scenario obviously presents a challenging picture for the field of music education.

Those of us who have been in the workforce for a decade or more have seen the effects of past recessions on music education. According to the Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2008 edition, California school districts are already cutting their staffs and reducing their funding to programs in reaction to the $4.8 billion proposed budget cut to education in the coming year. Schools across the state are reacting to this news with great concern about their ability to make cuts to be in line with the reduced funding. As we all know, the impact on arts programs is usually the first to be felt by these cuts and other states are grappling with similarly difficult choices. Though there are no easy solutions to this difficult budget environment, this is the time to be proactive and rally the supporters in your community to stand behind music education.

As the country slips into a recession, school budgets that have been in place for a year may remain set for now, but this is not the time to become complacent. Music programs that have been successful in staving off major program cuts have done so by effectively organizing parents, administrators, students, local politicians, and other key constituents before the voting on the budgets has taken place. There is a wealth of resources to help in this organizational effort, including Web sites such as www.supportmusic.com, www.MENC.org, www.vh1.com/partners/save_the_music, www.mhopus.org,

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