The dangers of cutting fine arts programs

by Kendra McKinney/Staff Writer

If you go to Greenfield-Central High School, then being in a fine arts class is fairly common. We have concert band, marching band, many art classes, and several different choir groups. We also have cooking classes and three different languages you choose to learn. As a school we are very lucky to have all these opportunities.

This can’t be said about other schools in Indiana. Schools like IPS have been cutting these classes in the last few years. Why?  There isn’t enough money to go around and schools must find ways to cut their budgets.  In 2015, it was announced that IPS would see a decrease of $16.9 million in state education funding.  In addition to the cuts over the last couple of years, Present Trump’s new budget cuts could also cause after-school programs currently offered to be cut.  Unfortunately, when “school budgets get squeezed, music and the other arts take the first hits,” according to James Caterall, a UCLA professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies in a March 2014 article on  Why is this?

Fine arts can be the first to be cut because they are not a clear money maker.  Unlike sports programs, typically fine arts events like band and choir concerts do not charge entrance fees.  This makes it easier for budget decision makers to keep sports programs as a way to increase money for the school.

Another reason for fine arts programs to be cut is the large cost for the programs.  They require specialized teachers.  There is even a larger specialization for music teachers making it necessary for schools to determine what type of music classes to offer.  

These cuts are not supported by everyone.  In response the IPS budget cuts, Scott McCormick, founder and president of the National Association of Music Parents, based in Fishers, says “it frustrates him any time a district moves in this direction because of the proven benefits of arts education.”  IPS school board member Gayle Cosby was also unhappy with the cutbacks, stating “school autonomy should result in more program choices for schools and kids, not fewer,” according to the 2015 article “Music Program Cuts Worry Some IPS Community Members.

So, why should schools keep fine arts programs?  “The students deeply engaged with any of these or other school-based activities are likely to be students happiest about being in school and the most successful all around,” according to Caterall’s article.  There are also studies to support that children who participate in fine arts programs do better in school overall.  In the late 1990’s a study by Frances Rauscher and Gordon Shaw showed that listening to Mozart gave college-age kids more spatial reasoning skills, as Caterall’s article pointed out.  This study caused additional studies over the years that showed students of all ages benefited from music programs.  

The cutting of these programs has a large effect on low-income children. At school may be the only way for these kids to be introduced to these subjects.  Other kids may have parents who can afford to put them in private lessons.  If we cut these programs there may be children out there that are really good at music or even art that will never know it.

Schools need to look at their budgets and find ways to keep these programs.  One thing some schools are doing is charging for fine arts events, making them on a more even level with sports programs.  Our children need to have the opportunity to find out if they have a talent for the fine arts.  A way to express their creativity.   And if the studies are right, help them with other school subjects.