In my days on the Michigan Coalition for the Arts, we would receive countless telephone calls from teachers who just found out that their program was going to be cut. They would call looking for help and guidance. Unfortunately, when they heard about the cuts, it was too late for our materials to help.
The work needed to save or maintain your program should start now and be continuous. Here are some things to think about to make sure you’re not on the short end of the “program cut” conversation.
Be an activist
Try to become involved with the decision making process in your district. While attending School Board meetings may be arduous, you will hear a great deal about the budgeting process. These meetings are where the rumblings of cuts begin.
If your district has a curriculum committee, get on it. Being in the driver seat regarding curriculum can assist you in insuring that music and the arts stay in the middle of your curriculum.
Be an organizer
Most teachers have a parent group. If you don’t have one, start one. Music parents can be very helpful in all sorts of ways, including putting heat on the Board if they are thinking of cutting programs. After all, they live in the district and pay taxes in the district.
Be a promoter
This was the hardest part for me as an educator until I realized how important it was. If you don’t promote your program to the community they will not know what you do for their students. If they don’t know what you do, they will have no substantial response if your program gets cut.
- In addition to playing your normal concerts, find high profile opportunities for your groups.
- Send out press releases to the local paper when your students do well (even if they just do OK) at festivals and competitions.
- Make sure your parent group is in the loop on all your events and have them help you spread the word.
- Tell anyone who will listen at any time how important your program is to the students and the community.
Know your resources
In the event you do hear rumblings about program cuts at the Board meetings that you now attend, you have to be ready to spring into action. The best place to find help for this is at www.supportmusic.com. It’s part of the NAMM Foundation (www.nammfoundation.org/support-music).
If you have not seen this site, you’re missing out on tons of high quality material that will assist you in making your case. Even if your program seems fine, go to supportmusic.com now! It’s a real learning experience.
Complacency is a luxury a music educator cannot afford. Be vigilant in promoting your program and be ready to respond to even a hint of trouble. That’s the only way you’ll know that they won’t be cutting your program.