A Tale of Two Counties: Reverse Economics

Welcome to the third in a four-part series by Dr. John Benham, a nationally renowned music educator who specializes in helping save music programs that have been targeted for devastating budget cuts. In his first pieces for AMP, Dr. Benham introduced us to two counties in which cuts to music education have been proposed, and he touched on the importance of building a strong music coalition. Today, he’ll introduce us to the reverse economics that will impress bean-counters, and next week he’ll show us the results from taking (or not!) the right steps at the right times.

Tale of 2 Counties Benham

There are four keys to successful advocacy for music education:

 Understanding the School System
A Well-organized Music Coalition
A Unified Music Profession
Understanding the Decision-Making Process

 Make it five: Pro-active Involvement in the Process

Reverse Economics

The concept of Reverse Economics lies in the principle that the long-term effects of the elimination or reduction of a program are more costly than the initial savings anticipated. There are at least two relevant factors that contribute to the concept.

  1. The budget process in education is based on the assumption of an average salary of all teachers (FTE, or full-time equivalent); and that each teacher (FTE) has the same (average) student load. The primary cost factor in education is personnel. The most cost-efficient personnel are those who provide instruction to the largest number of students in a given class period and/or who carry the largest student loads. Since music performance teachers normally carry the largest student loads, or have the largest average class sizes, in effect they have a higher FTE value than the classroom teacher. Typically the secondary music performance (band, orchestra, choir) teacher has a student load of 200 compared with the classroom teacher with average loads of 125. This gives the music performance teacher an FTE value equivalent to 1.6 FTE classroom teachers. In other words, for every 1.0 FTE music teacher eliminated or lost because of declining enrollment, the district will need to hire 1.6 FTE classroom teachers.
  2. Extensive national case studies indicate that when the first year of beginning instrumental instruction is delayed until grade six (or later), the subsequent decline in student participation in the secondary grades will be a minimum of 65%. The resulting decline of secondary enrollment in music will result in the significant increase in class sizes for non-music subjects, requiring the district to hire teachers to keep non-music class sizes down.

 

The Data

The average student load of the secondary classroom teachers in Foresight County was 132 in the middle school and 145 in the high school. Compared respectively with the average student loads of 198 and 178 for the music performance teacher, the music teachers had an FTE value of 1.5 FTE classroom teachers.

Combined with the desire to maintain current class sizes at the secondary level and the need to add classes because of the anticipated decline of enrollment in instrumental music, the district would have needed to hire an additional 70 teachers. This would have resulted in budgetary miscalculation equivalent to an annual loss (reverse economic effect) of over $900,000.

The average student load of the secondary classroom teacher in Failure County was 78 in the middle school and 60 in the high school. Compared with the average student load of 177 for the secondary music performance teacher, the music teachers had an FTE value of 2.4 FTE in the middle school and 3.0 FTE in the high school.

Combined with the desire to maintain current class sizes at the secondary level and the need to add classes because of the anticipated loss of enrollment in instrumental music, the district would have needed to hire an additional 122 teachers. This would have resulted in budgetary miscalculation equivalent to an annual loss of over $10,000,000.

A TALE OF TWO COUNTIES
©John L. Benham
Used by permission

Benham-212x300Dr. John Benham’s area of expertise is saving and restoring music programs in the face of budget cuts. With over 30 years as a music educator and six years on a school board, his personal knowledge and experience has provided a unique understanding to help teachers and parents go before a school board and administration with language they understand. His methods are responsible for saving over $72 million in budgetary cuts to music programs, leading to the restoration of over 2,000 teaching positions and the continuation of music programs for over 500,000 students. In addition to his work as consultant with NABIM (The Band and Instrument Manufacturers Association), he is author of Music Advocacy: Moving from Survival to Vision and has been featured as a speaker at conferences throughout North America. He is a member of the ACDA and ASTA advocacy committees, and the MENC Task Force on advocacy. His plan and elements of his approach to this very significant problem have become a part of NAMM’s advocacy kit for music.

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