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A Student's Perspective on Proposed Budget Cuts
by Anna Blatto
My name is Anna Blatto and I’m a student at City Honors School. It’s hard to believe that almost two years ago today I wrote a letter that was eerily similar to the one you are reading now. Both this letter and the previous one pertain to crises in the Buffalo Public Schools district. Then, it was the laying off of dozens of essential teachers. As we make another round of budget cuts, we come to question the importance of music education in our schools. Music programs (especially instrumental programs) in 18 public and charter schools are being severely reduced and, in most cases, eliminated. Not only will this directly affect the teachers and students in those schools, but it will indirectly impact the rest of the district. Action needs to be taken now to save our music programs.
First, I would like to briefly highlight the proven significance of music education. Studies have proven that there is a direct correlation between music involvement and academic achievement. Music enhances knowledge in almost all subjects, especially science, mathematics, geography, history, and language. The high amounts of memorization involved in music result in an improved memory. Recent studies conducted state that on average students who participate in music score on average 50 points higher on each respective section of the SAT, and that 90 percent of people with graduate degrees participated in music at some point in their education. Additionally studies state that schools and districts with a high academic rating spend typically 20-30 percent of their annual budget on music education. Not only does music education provide a plethora of benefits in other core areas of education, but it provides a sense of social belonging. Through music programs and musical groups, children who may under normal circumstances feel shy or alone can find a sense of comfort and social affinity. Music also encourages collaboration and group involvement. Via musical organizations, students are able to build lasting friendships that continue with them throughout their entire education, which lead to fewer social problems among children.
After understanding some of the enormous benefits of music education, it should be clear that maintaining our music programs should be considered a priority. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. When budget cuts occur, music programs are often the first to go. An overly generous percentage of the budget is spent on sports while music programs often suffer. It is clear music education provides an equal, if not a greater, benefit to students in the Buffalo District. Additionally, it is appalling that in a district that must overcome tremendous adversity, music programs, which provide a backbone to general education, are being removed. The removal of these programs, as it has been seen in other school districts throughout the country, can only lead to upheaval. The fall of music programs will soon be followed by a drastic fall in test scores, a fall in school attendance, and a loss of general interest in school itself. This poses a risk to dropout rates, thus lowering the district’s already low graduation rate. After looking at all the evidence, is it really wise to cut music education from the system?
This is an issue that needs to be addressed now. Why shouldn’t music programs receive the same treatment as sports programs? Are they not as important? We must stand up to these cuts and tell our leaders that music programs have the capacity to change lives, and that they must not be removed. I’ve seen the profuse change the music department has gone through in the past few years. The annual Buffalo Public Schools Summer Music Camp, a staple for years, was eliminated last summer due to budget constraints. This camp opened my eyes to the true effects of music education, and how it transforms and enlightens children. Attending the district’s annual Collage performance at Shea’s is just a simple indicator of the talent the district possesses.
This letter’s main intent is to encourage concerned citizens to take a stand against these actions. With enough public support, these programs have a better chance of being reinstated for a long time to come. It must be understood that in times of economic hardship cuts must be made, but to cut music programs in eighteen public schools (including McKinley, Riverside, East, Bennett, North Park, Lydia T. Wright, Southside Elementary, West Hertel Academy, Math Science Technology, Native American Magnet, Hillery Park, Bilingual Center, Lovejoy, Science Magnet, Discovery, Herman Badillo International Prep, and Westminster Charter), some of which are already suffering, is extraordinarily unwise. Please think about the children, your children, and the future of the city and beyond, and support this worthy cause.
> Anna Blatto, Buffalo
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