Latest News

Catalyst Chicago Magazine - News and Analysis

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!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.