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An “earth” without “art” is just “eh” – Mark Tiamzon
Around the age of four, parents tend to ask their children for the first time what they would like to be when they grow up; for some, its an astronaut, others want to be princesses, presidents, teachers, and then there are the ones that want to paint, to act or to sing. When children start school, they’ll be asked again by their teachers, responding with the same answers and a boost of encouragement by their educators.
In middle school they’ll ask again, the child’s answer changing to something a bit more “grown-up” such as a lawyer, a scientist or a surgeon. There is however, one child who will give you the same answer – the one that just wants a chance to express themselves through a creative outlet; to be an actress, to be on broadway, to paint, sing, take pictures, just to simply tell the world that they have something in their heart that they want to show us.
Every child is different and every child is equally as passionate about their interests. If our society today does anything, it should be that we work to keep this passion for learning and knowledge burning inside today’s children and encourage a desire to follow their dreams, no matter how unique. If we burn out this fire by taking away a more diverse and full education, we are forcing these kids to fit a societal “mold” where work is a pain, not a passion.
Passion is one of the most important traits you can instill in your child, but is not even half of why it is important to keep arts programs in schools. Thousands of tests have been done over the years of what music and art does to the brain and the development of a child; those who perform in music groups or study some element of performance are shown to have significantly higher test scores, are much more social and self-confident than the average student, and are shown to make a higher salary post-graduation from either high school or after receiving a college degree. The list goes on as to the benefits of performing arts groups in schools, but in times of crisis, these benefits are cast aside by those in higher power when money is on the line.
In the early 2000’s, our economy took a downfall during the Bush Administration, falling into an official recession in December of 2007, according to CNN.com. Budgets became tight for anyone and everyone, and school funding was one of the first things to go. Phil Oliff of the CBPP Says; “Because states relied heavily on spending reductions in response to the recession, rather than on a more balanced mix of spending cuts and revenue increases, funding for schools and other public services fell sharply. While emergency aid from the federal government reduced the severity of cuts to school funding in the years immediately following the onset of the recession, Congress allowed that aid largely to expire at the end of the 2011 fiscal year, before state revenues had recovered from the recession.” (Oliff, 2). Here is where the real problem arises; our school systems, whether public or private, are the most essential institutions of our global society today, because they shape our children to become the nation’s leaders once our generation’s time is over. If these institutions are the most vital part of our society, how can we take away one of the school’s most vital programs for brain and social development? And moreover, how can we think that after a few years, re-funding the schools and then cutting them off once more will fix all financial problems?
The raise in school spending and tax revenue and its affect on students is already showing its true colors as a problem rather than a solution due to cuts in school budgets alone, not even specifically to the arts programs. In the New York Times, journalist Billy Easton focused in on severe budget cuts to rural city school districts and how it affected the outcome of some of their best students; “[…]the valedictorian of a rural school district outside Rochester was rejected by a nearby State University of New York campus — not because her grades were too low, but because her high school didn’t offer the courses needed to compete for college admission.” (Easton, 1). This case stated by Eston is one of many, each specific to what their region decided their school could do without. Though it might be a method that pays in short term, this will actually cost the country more money in the long run, producing high school graduates less-prepared for college and the working world, having had a much less diverse-education than those living in more densely populated areas.
Elementary schools are the primary target for cutting music programs, over half already being cut between 2004 and 2010 alone. According to Olivia Houck of ASU, studies have been conducted that actually show more money being spent after music programs were cut from several schools, due to behavioral issue arising in children; “The study of music, theatre, and other forms of art have been shown to stimulate other parts of student’s minds and even keep them out of gangs and other harmful situations. Statistics from a nationwide survey by the Gallup organization show that, “95% percent of Americans believe that music is a key-component in a child’s well-rounded education, 80% percent of respondents agreed that music makes the participants smarter; 78% believe that learning a musical instrument helps students perform better in other subject areas; and 88% believe participation in music helps teach children discipline” (Hurley 3), it is apparent that music and art programs in schools are crucial in children’s education.” (Houck, 2010). Here we see that music and arts programs are vital to the behavioral growth of children and teens; music teaches concentration and discipline, causing students to be more well behaved, attentive, and less active in gang communities. As we eliminate these programs, what we were once preventing from occurring with children will grow into a larger problem, making only a more deeper debt hole than we are trying to climb out of in the first place as we hire more employees to correct these behavioral issues. Ryan Hurley of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (weac) also explains the extensive costs cutting the arts could have on the education system; ‘“Within two to three years, every school that cut arts showed a decrease in morale and attendance and an increase in vandalism and disruptions, and within three years most of them had to add extensive disciplinary staff to account for the problems that were created by not providing the full range of experiences that human beings need,” Rayala said. These staff additions are costing the school more than keeping the arts programs and are hurting testing scores in the process, he said.” (Hurley, 8) Clear as day, Hurley explains that taking away these programs is costing more money than keeping them is, and the severity of this statement grows every year as more and more students graduate without a proper education. However, with this problem on the rise, some believe that cutting funding in schools is actually more of a blessing than a curse.
Aabri.com is a site dedicated to discussing the pro’s and cons of dozens of controversial topics in professional research journals regardless of the public’s general opinion. In regards to education budget cuts, a lot is mentioned about how this will organize the school system and help them “think outside the box” in regards to how their educational money is spent, for instance, converting certain programs to online-only courses. Though online courses are a smart idea for eliminating short term costs, online classes have the lowest attendance and retention rates, and are still not guaranteed to fix long-term financial issues. (Coleman, Walker, Lawrence, 3).
Cutting school funding has been presented as a solution to our government’s financial crisis, and has ultimately failed to do anything besides present new issues for schools and students. In order to slowly but surely fix the american financial crisis, to boost the economy, and to boost the intellectual value of the new generation, we must instead focus our funding into schools to give students a diverse and well-rounded education, bettering them and making them more valuable employees and college students post- high school graduation.
Many schools are eliminating special programs such as Head Start and special education programs, and others are eliminating food services such as breakfast and free/reduced lunch options in order to save money. Though these programs serve a minority of students in a specific school, the education system possesses a group of students too heavily diverse to cut any program and not witness any backlash from the community. Instead, more funding must be put into schools to balance the American economy. This year, the Republican president of the Wisconsin senate and the chairman of the Education Committee are proposing an increase in school funding that would cost around $382 million dollars. A plan to increase school funding was enacted by governor Walker, but revenue limits were not lifted allowing schools to actually spend the funds they were given. “The Republican lawmakers’ plan relies on a mixture of existing funding Walker put in his budget and $153 million in additional property tax money over two years. It also would redirect about $100 million in education funding Walker proposed….” (Bauer, 2013) Looking into perspective, this is a rather delicate increase in funding, but replenishing an economy will take quite a bit of time, needing only a little faith and a solid plan such as this one.
Some will argue that taking more money from the public and putting it into the education system will not help to boost the economy, rather diminish it even more. However, this is a false claim when looking at what families have to pay for when a school is low on funding. One of the examples of popular cuts when budgets are being depleted is the free and reduced lunch program, causing low or no-income families to have to struggle to pay full price to feed their children lunches, or even needing to take them off lunch plans completely, spending more money to have them take food from home to school, and depleting their school of even more money. For the Advanced Placement (AP) and head start programs, end of the year testing as well as state mandated testing can be quite costly, sometimes being more than one hundred dollars for an advanced placement test to get college credit. because of the No Child Left Behind act, school funds can be used to pay for testing for low-income children, but this cannot be given to everyone, due to low funding for schools, causing these low income families to either scrounge for funds or have their children miss out on the opportunity for college credit. What the community fails to realise is that with more funding towards schools in the form of a simple tax increase, less money will be falling out of their pockets for expenses such as food money and testing. More money will be in the community’s pocket, so they may spend it on other things thus boosting the economic system. It will take time, but eventually this will be the outcome of boosting school funding as a tax increase.
The governor of California also has a tax increase initiative in order to send more money to schools, raising the tax percentage to 8.6% and increases personal income tax rates on incomes over $250,000. The governor states that this money will go directly to schools, boosting programs and thus giving kids a more well-rounded and inexpensive public education.
Schools also often worked to be approved for certain exceptions regarding money such as properoperty taxes, but only close to 36% actually use them. (Barbra Miller, 2013) “West Shore School District is seeking an exception of about $1 million for pension costs and $53,575 for special education to help balance the 2013-14 budget, said Ryan Argot, district spokesman and director of federal programs. If used, the exceptions could result in a tax increase of 3.66 percent for Cumberland County residents and 3.86 percent for York County, according to the preliminary budget.” (Miller 2013). We see this as a dramatic increase in taxes that would cause a struggle among many, but in reality, this is a rough draft for a more effective and thorough plan to boost our schools and our community. a smaller tax increase, and a raise on the school revenue policy to allow for school spending is a slow and effective process for eliminating school strain and debt.
Our economy has seen better days, and so has our school systems. In order to combat one, the other had to suffer, drastically slashing school budgets in order to solve America’s budget crisis. It was originally believed this would help or even solve the debt America was working to pay, but it instead made it worse, cutting arts programs and giving kids a lesser education, not to mention asking more out of the pockets of American lower-class families. In order to combat this, the opposite must be done, giving even a fraction of a percentage tax increase to the community to go towards school funding and giving kids a better education. Here we can kill multiple birds with one stone; boosting the economy, improving our school system, and creating more well rounded and work ready adults post-graduation, thus building our economy even more for future generations.
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