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Thomas J. West Music

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Crisis Management - What To Do When Your School Board Proposes To Cut Your Music Program

Posted on May 23, 2011 at 3:16 PM

budget cuts

Many Music Education programs in my home state of Pennsylvania are under attack by their local school boards in reaction to the state budget proposals by Governor Tom Corbett and members of the legislature. I have reported on many of these stories in my editorial category.

This past Friday, PMEA Advocacy Chairman Richard Victor posted the following document in the Pennsylvania Leadership and Advocacy Network group on Facebook. It refers to Pennsylvania schools specifically, but it is an excellent guide to any public school music education program in any location in the United States.

Music programs are in trouble in Pennsylvania.


Throughout the state School Districts are considering budget reduction options that would eliminate music program offerings at EVERY level.  PMEA members in unprecedented numbers have requested information from me to help in their fight to prevent program cuts.  I offer the following to everyone facing a crisis situation:


* * *


1. The budget process is exactly that . . . a process.  It can be a very painful process, but keep in mind that NOTHING IS IN STONE.  All proposed cuts are just PROPOSALS at this time and do not become permanent until your school district budget is passed in June.  Even then decisions can be changed, and programs can be restored.  The process works by putting every possible cut "on the table" and then waiting to see if there is any strong "push-back" to specific cuts.


2. PMEA members are asking for materials and information that will help in their fight.  Please understand, that in budget battles, there is no printed material, no research document, or magic letter that will be effective.  There is very little that an individual music teacher or school district music faculty can do to change a decision maker's mind. THE ONLY EFFECTIVE method for preventing program cuts are large numbers of PARENTS who contact decision makers and tell them that CUTS TO THE MUSIC PROGRAM ARE UNACCEPTABLE!  This is the "push-back" that must occur for your program to prevent the proposed cuts from actually taking place.


3. Although it is helpful to develop accurate "talking points" for your music parents to use, it is not mandatory. If you use them, then those points must be generated LOCALLY.  What is it that students in YOUR DISTRICT will lose by the proposed cut?  Keep in mind that at this time, decision makers do not care about research regarding the importance of the arts.  They are looking only at dollars and cents and what taxpayers are willing to pay for.


4. If you are facing a crisis, then organize your music parents and have them start contacting decision makers (school board, administration, etc) in person, by phone call, and by email.  ONE CONTACT is NOT enough.  Decision makers must believe that there is STRONG COMMUNITY SUPPORT for the music program.  Shoot for FIFTY messages to every person involved in the budget process.  Be PERSISTENT and BE CONSISTENT.  Do not stop your efforts until proposed cuts are "off the table."


Please keep every PLAN Member up to date regarding the budget process in your district.  Share your success stories and look here for information on things you can do to help influence decisions.


Mr. Victor added further that "To be effective, letters and emails must be generated by local citizens. Messages from people who are not constituents in the local school district will be ignored, and may weaken your overall effort. Keep working on organizing the effort to have those emails come from the geographical borders for your district."

When trouble comes a-knocking at your music program's door, mobilize support systems in your community. Remember, when it comes to school boards, "If you aren't at the table, you're on the menu."

This article (c) 2011 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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Categories: Music Education, Editorial

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