Budget cuts would decimate our county’s nationally recognized music program

More than 50 programs and positions will be eliminated with the tentative state budget cut.
Photo: Steve Marcus

This is no joke. A little over a week ago, Marcia Neel, former supervisor of the Clark County School District’s secondary music education program, sat on a panel for the National School Board Association’s annual conference in San Francisco, sharing ways to build a music program as sound as the one in Clark County (one of the best in the nation).

The panel session’s title was “Now More Than Ever, We Want That Music Program For Our Students!”

Meanwhile, back here in the Valley, things were downright wacky as secondary fine arts teachers and administrators were creating an informal and ever-changing list of positions and programs in visual arts, theater and music slated to be cut. The list fluctuated. Some programs were reinstated the next day, but the ongoing number stabilized at more than 50 programs and positions to be eliminated as part of the tentative state budget cut—despite studies showing the positive impact of arts on brain development, critical thinking and discipline.

Decisions on what to cut at each school are made by that school's principal. Rick McEnaney, coordinator of the school district’s secondary fine arts program, says principals are grappling with such decisions as whether to have 50 students in an English class or cut choir, and principals are making different choices.

“Nobody wants to be making these cuts,” he says.

Chatter is already brewing about what to do if arts programs are to be cut. McEnaney is talking with principals about ways to reduce programs rather than eliminate them. For example, two principals could share a teacher between their schools. A reduced program, he says, is not good, but it’s better than an eliminated program, adding that arts programs are what keep many students in high school. His own high school band program is what kept him from dropping out. He became the first person in his family to go to college and did so on a music scholarship.

Neel’s biggest concern is over what arts eliminations will do to the educational playing field: “The reason CCSD is known for its arts education is because of the sequential standard-based curriculum and because we provide an opportunity for all students, not just the haves," she says. "When you start pulling pieces away, it’s inequitable.”

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