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Catalyst Chicago Magazine - News and Analysis

Sunday, March 29, 2009

News Flash!!!

At the School Board “Committee of the Board” meeting on Tuesday evening. The board approved cuts to administration, and also approved a maximum cut of $700,000 to elementary instrumental music and a maximum cut of $450,000 to athletics. These cuts might become smaller, if the District is able to identify other savings.

This is half the original proposed cut to instrumental music.

The District is proposing that (a) each SPPS elementary school have one day of instrumental music education funded by the District, and that (b) music magnet schools (4 Seasons, Franklin, Monroe Linwood A+, and Mississippi Magnet) be maintained at the same District funding level for one year. Schools have the option to pay for additional instructional time from their own budgets.

This is great news, here’s why we think so:

· The board is rethinking its position.

· funding is central

Not-so-good news, here’s why we think so:

· We still stand to lose 10 instrumental positions which is 12.5% of all music teachers.

· Schools can chose to defund their music programs district money or not.

· 1 day per week isn’t enough for many schools (Expo, Capitol Hill, etc.)

District wants the teacher to spend an entire day at a specified school – that won’t be effective because band/string teachers can’t pull students out of many classes - leads to a teacher who has periods when there aren’t any students available to teach!


  • Teachers will be forced to make painful choices about who will be excluded from their Band/Strings programs.
  • Teachers may be forced to take on many large groups of different abilities and/or instrument types effectively compromising learning standards.
  • Lesson times will be severely abbreviated also compromising learning standards.
According to the National Standards in the Elementary Music we should have:

  • A minimum of two 30-minute group lessons per week, with a maximum of 4 students with the same instruments. (all flutes, all trumpets, etc.)
  • When the students have successfully accomplished half of their beginning text, an ensemble class of no less than 30 minutes (45 is better) should be added once a week.

Here’s what we think needs to happen:

  • Keep the cuts from the kids, cut elsewhere.
  • Teachers need to be directly involved in any re-structuring of the instrumental music program
  • St. Paul needs to manage its instrument assets. People involved in the repair process, both within the District staff and vendors, should help plan this. We think money could be saved!
  • Saint Paul should look at running a summer beginner program through Community Educ, like Roseville, Mounds View, Maplewood, and West St. Paul do.
  • A moratorium on the closing of any more vocal or instrumental music programs.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


What is happening?

  • February 10, 2009: St. Paul Publics Schools proposes the district budget for 2009-2010 school year.

  • Budget includes a $1.4 million cut to itinerant instrumental music.

  • The $25 million deficit reflects a 5% decrease to overall budget. The 19.5 music teacher cut eliminates approximately 25% of music teachers/programs district wide.

What does this mean?

  • “Itinerant” essentially means district-funded, and most strongly affects elementary band and orchestra programs.

  • A $1.4 million deficit in instrumental music results in the elimination of 20 district-funded band and orchestra programs.

Why is this bad?

  • While individual schools will have the option of funding their own instrumental music programs, the majority of the schools impacted by this do not have the finances to do so. Many general music programs at our elementary schools have already been eliminated.

  • Taking away district-funded instrumental music programs at the primary level takes the “public” out of “public schools” and thus leaves instrumental music only available to those families who can afford to pay for private lessons and instrument rental.

  • Families who wish to have instrumental music provided to their children at the elementary level will begin to pull their students from the public schools, and will send them to charter schools who are increasing their arts funding. This naturally results in declining enrollment and retention in St. Paul Public Schools, which ultimately decreases funding for the schools.

  • Eliminating elementary programs will erode secondary programs in a matter of 2 to 5 years. As fewer students are trained to become a part of these higher level programs, fewer students will participate, and music programs will face more cuts at the secondary level due to quality and quantity of participants.

  • Taking music instruction away from St. Paul students removes one more commonality that they can share with many other well-educated people later on in their lives. Taking this common vocabulary and life experience away from our students increases the socioeconomic gap and gives them one more obstacle to overcome later on life.

What are some of the statistical benefits of elementary instrumental music?

  • The scores of elementary instrumental music students on standardized math tests increased with each year they participated in the instrumental program.

-"Music Training Helps Underachievers," Nature, May 26, 1996.

  • A ten-year study indicates that students who study music achieve higher test scores, regardless of socioeconomic background. - Dr. James Catterall, UCLA.

  • In a 1999 Columbia University study, students in the arts are found to be more cooperative with teachers and peers, more self-confident, and better able to express their ideas. These benefits exist across socioeconomic levels. -The Arts Education Partnership, 1999.

  • Students with band and orchestra experience attend college at a rate twice the national average. - Bands Across the USA.

  • Schools with music programs have higher attendance and graduation rates than those without. -MENC

  • The statistics that can be shared about the benefits of instrumental music training within our youth are endless. The bottom line is that we, as a fragile species, have such a short time to be passionate, and every child deserves the opportunity to find passion in some aspect of life. For so many people, that passion is only found in music. To define the true purpose and intention of music by using words is not possible. If it were, it would not be music. Music is for the things we experience in life for which there are no words.

Who can you contact to make your voice heard?

  • Members of the St. Paul Board of Education should be contacted:

Please E-mail Paul Rohlfing at


  1. You have already contacted the board-we need to know!
  2. You want to do more!
  3. You need more information on keeping elementary instrumental music in the Saint Paul Public Schools!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Right to the point

SPPS is planning to cut 19.5

Elementary Orchestra and Band Positions

Instrumental music plays a FUNDAMENTAL role in children's basic education contributing in countless positive formative ways to the development of:

  • Artistic & Aesthetic Literacy

  • cognitive skills

  • mathematical abilities

  • social skills

  • small & large group work skills

  • self-discipline

  • cultural awareness

  • listening skills

  • a capacity to engage in slow diligent work toward a future goal

Success: in school learning and society

Success in developing intelligence and success in life.

Parents! We need your help!!!

Contact the St. Paul School Board Now

Tell them to keep instrumental music

in the Saint Paul Public Schools

Kazoua Kong-Thao, Chair 651-238-1869 /

Elona Street-Stewart, Vice-Chair 651-291-8569 /

Tom Conlon, Clerk 651-699-7399 /

Tom Goldstein, Treasurer 651-644-8558 /

Anne Carroll, Director 651-690-9156 /

John Brodrick, Director 651-645-7500 /

Keith Hardy, Director 651-497-8924 /

Or attend a meeting!

Meeting Schedule

Board of Education meeting will be held in the district Administration Building at 360 Colborne Street, 5:45 PM

Tuesdays, March 17, April 14, May 19

Listening sessions:

Thursday, March 26th - 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. -- John A. Johnson Elementary

740 York Ave, 55106

Thursday, May 28 - 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. -- EXPO Elementary School

Please E-mail Paul Rohlfing at


  1. You have already contacted the board-we need to know!
  2. You want to do more!
  3. You need more information on keeping elementary instrumental music in the Saint Paul Public Schools!