Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Possible Good News on the Anchorage Schools Grade School Music Funding Front - Updated

Last night at the Anchorage Civic Orchestra weekly rehearsal an appeal was made for members to either write to the school board regarding the possible cutting of grade school instrumental music in next year's budget, or to show up Thursday afternoon to testify.  Members of the orchestra are currently grade school music teachers, and others were - dating back to the 1950s.

Orchestra board president, Terry Marquart, one of Alaska's most distinguished public safety professionals (he also plays string bass), wrote the following to School Board president Jeff Friedman:
From: T M
Sent: Wednesday, February 08, 2012 7:42 PM
To: School Board
Subject: Cuts to the 6th Grade Band and Orchestra Program

Honorable Members of the Anchorage School Board:

I am the President of the Anchorage Civic Orchestra.  Recently, I have learned that the Anchorage School Board is considering cutting the 6th grade band and orchestra programs from the budget.

I believe cutting this program would be devastating  to many young musicians.  This cut might look good on paper.  However, this cut is a blow to our entire music community.  The students working toward scholarships and other musical goals would be impacted in a negative way.

I know that cutting this music program, would help the budget.  However, this is not the place to cut.  The students in the music program have suffered enough when the 4th and 5th grade music programs were cut.  The jobs of junior high and high school music teachers are now more difficult as students are arriving with less experience.  Learning to play an instrument is more than learning to play scales and pieces alone.  Education means you have played as a member of an orchestra or band and have that experience of belonging to a group and playing your part.  Experience in an orchestra or band can not be duplicated. Students need this type of challenge.  Please do not cut the talented music teachers who are challenging students daily and seeing students complete musical tasks that the student never felt he could accomplish.  Music allows students to be creative and solve  problems.  It keeps students interested and off of the streets as well as teaching students about the artistic values of our society.

Please do not cut the 6th grade band and orchestra programs from the budget.


Terry L. Marquart
Anchorage Civic Orchestra
Mr. Friedman wrote back this evening:
From: Friedman_Jeff 
To: T M 
Sent: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 8:40 PM
Subject: RE: Cuts to the 6th Grade Band and Orchestra Program

Thank you for supporting music in our schools and in our community. I had the opportunity to attend several Anchorage Civic Orchestra concerts when my son Sam was playing.  I do not believe anyone will propose cutting sixth grade band/orchestra from next year's budget.  We do face a serious budget shortfall, and there will be difficult cuts in other areas.

Jeff Friedman
Anchorage School Board
1534 D Street
Anchorage, AK  99501
Music program supporters should nevertheless continue planning to attend the Thursday afternoon session, or should write to the school board, showing support for this valuable program.

Update:  Jeff Friedman also commented at Linda Kellen Biegel's story on elementary band funding at The Mudflats:
The Anchorage Symphony Website is technically accurate, but potentially misleading. No one has proposed cutting sixth grade band and orchestra. As the person who asked the funding question, I do not intend to make such a proposal, and I don’t know of any other board member who does. We ask a lot of questions at budget time. I believe it is important for elected officials to ask questions before spending public money. If providing this program to about 2000 sixth graders cost $5 million, perhaps I would have suggested a cut. But at $1.5 million (approx), I don’t intend to recommend eliminating it.
The proposed budget actually recommends increased class size, half time librarians, fewer counselors in high need positions, and other drastic measures. I do not believe that it will be possible to balance the budget without making cuts that harm the central mission of educating all students for success in life. We are not allowed to raise taxes. We are dependent on the funding level set by others. Based on the funding decisions that have been made, the school board will now be trying to find the least harmful way to balance the budget. If funding changes later in the year — as it sometimes does — the budget will be adjusted accordingly. If funding does not change, we will be left with the cuts made on Thursday night.

Jeff Friedman
School Board Member
 Linda responded to this by writing:
 **UPDATE** (NOTE: There is no official action on the table at this time to cut 6th grade band/orchestra programs. The concern of music teachers/parents/musicians across the city comes from the fact that a member of the Anchorage School Board requested information as to the cost of the programs and currently, the Board is trying to figure out what cuts to make. When you testify Thursday, realize the Anchorage School Board is not the villain. Anger and frustration over the budget situation must be directed constructively (in a civilized way) at Governor Sean Parnell, Mayor Dan Sullivan, the Anchorage Assembly Members and the Alaska State Senators and Legislators. They are the ones who hold the purse strings.)
The biggest push in the public education arena this year by the legislature will be that to push for privatization, and to divert money from taxpayers to private schools, the majority of which will be fundamentalist Christian ones.  It is beginning to look like this battle will suck education committees' time away from making rational decisions in any other area.


Anonymous said...

This is happening all over the country. In Michigan, the first thing cut is still music. My town has the largest chemical company on one site in the world, and a very wealthy tax base, but due to federal cuts (thanks GOP) and state cuts to edication (thanks, Czar Snyder, for cutting taxes for corporations making money hand over fist while taxing our teachers and cutting tons of public sector jobs) we closed half our elementary schools and will be closing one middle school (the one with the only decent auditorium in town for school use!)
So I hope this is successful. I learned to play trombone in 5th grade, and am still playing 50 years later. In fact, my income is from trombone lessons and coaching low brass at the high schools. My husband and I met in HS band, and play three or more nights a week....mostly for fun, but we do make several thousand a year from big band gigs, and otehr paying groups. And, it's FUN! Never ceases to amaze me that we have no hesitation supporting sports, but the one area that is lifelong, we want to cut.

Anonymous said...


...gotta proofread!!