In Indiana, yesterday was election day. In addition to voting for our Senate seat in Congress and a number of other key seats, for the community of Zionsville, equally important on the ballot is the referendum on funding for their schools. Though it is not their first, it is one that—in my opinion and that of many others—must pass. In November of 2010, their last referendum went down 61% to 39% vote.
I write this post having spent a few hours last Friday evening volunteering 30 minutes across town in Zionsville. I got to experience my first door-to-door canvassing of a neighborhood with two of my new friends, Nicole and Chelle.
Chelle, a mom of two kids in elementary school, took me along with her to the first few houses to learn the routine before giving me my own list of addresses to visit. Nicole, pictured here, is a mom of two kids in the district, both who are in the music program. Nicole graduated from Carmel H.S. and had Richard Saucedo as her band director. A very passionate woman who cares deeply about the kids in the district and what it would mean to lose music. She is also a very informed resident, having attended many school board meetings and met with the superintendent to find out the facts for herself before becoming involved as a volunteer.
Knowing that the previous referendum failed and that since then only eight of 19 school districts in Indiana have passed their referendums, and that I live in one of the those eight that passed its 2010 referendum 82% to 18%, I felt it my civic duty to assist my neighbors. It was my pleasure, as well, especially in light of the fact that this one is personal for me. If this referendum fails, all 5th & 6th grade music, band, orchestra and choir will be cut. If that is not bad enough, if it fails another vote cannot come until fall of 2013 and by the then the superintendent and school board have already articulated that the 2013-14 school year they will be forced to cut ALL MUSIC IN THE DISTRICT! This is just NOT ACCEPTABLE—IN ZIONSVILLE, INDIANA, OR ANYWHERE ELSE!
To think that there are roughly 1000 kids who will be deprived of music, when the President’s Committee on the Art sand Humanities just this past week directed $14 million dollars into a program called Turnaround: Arts designed to help narrow the achievement gap and increase student engagement through the arts. The recent study, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future through Creative Schools (May 2011), shows that when students participate in the arts they are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, have higher GPA/SAT scores, and demonstrate a 56 percent improvement in spatial-temporal IQ scores. And they show significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12, are more engaged and cooperative with teachers and peers, and are more self-confident and better able to express their ideas. How is it possible that anyone can even consider eliminating music and the arts from the curriculum—budget crises or no budget crises?
Additionally, the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently stated, “....All students—100 percent—should have access to arts instruction. All children should have arts-rich schools. Judged against that widely-shared standard, I think it is clear that our public schools have a long way to go before they are providing a rich and rigorous arts education to all students.
“For a host of reasons, high-quality arts education is absolutely critical to providing all students with a world-class education. The study of the arts can significantly boost student achievement, reduce discipline problems, and increase the odds that students will go on to graduate from college. Arts education is also essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical to young Americans competing in a knowledge-based, global economy. And the arts are valuable for their own sake. They empower students to create and appreciate aesthetic works. Creating by doing is a uniquely powerful way to learn.
“I want to add that last, but not least, the arts are also fun. They give students a reason to look forward to coming to school. They give them the chance to be excited about Glee Club.…” or art class, or jazz band, or orchestra...or whatever it is that makes those kids tick.
I want to applaud the efforts of a very diligent group of parents and concerned citizens who made up Zionsville Yes. As I sit here and watch the evening news, I am happy to report that their efforts won’t soon be forgotten, as they won the referendum 57% YES to 43% No.
The true winners in this situation are those kids who will continue to have music as an integral part of their education. It is very fitting that I received a text from Nicole last night as she sat in her child's middle school band concert they were able to announce the referendum victory to the kids and audience. Had it not passed, this would have been those kids last concert. I encourage parents everywhere to be diligent in your efforts to understand what is happening in your local community and follow the lead of a group like Zionsville Yes and become organized. We don't know who will be next, but we do know that these funding issues with our school budgets will not be over in the near future.