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Friday, March 24, 2006
Angel LaMarca is president of the Music Matters Committee, a citizen group working on behalf of music education within the Orange Unified School District.
Fight for School Music Is Far From Over
By Angel LaMarca
On March 10, headlines told of a victory for children in the Orange Unified School District: elementary music instruction would be restored, two years after officials voted for its elimination.
This was certainly better news than the alternative, but parents and taxpayers in Orange County can’t afford to take false solace from it. The March 9 vote is merely the latest step in a long process, and the irreplaceable benefits of hands-on music at the elementary level are still very much in jeopardy.
At this point, the outcome depends more than ever on dedicated action by an energized community. Concerned residents of Orange County have the power to decide this issue, but only if they become informed, contact their elected leaders and make their case.
Perhaps the greatest concern is that the restored program will turn out to be music education in name only: the $400,000 amount budgeted by the OUSD Board of Education for next year is much less than a full program would require. As things stand now, there’s no guarantee that people with certification in music will have any say in determining curricular standards or the way the money is allocated. As things stand now, for example, elementary music in the district will be taught by regular classroom teachers in whatever way they decide, whether or not they have any music skills.
Broader issues hang in the balance as well. The Orange County Department of Education stands ready to test a new blueprint for music education in one of the county’s 28 districts. The budget situation in the Orange Unified district, as well as the state of its existing music program, make it a perfect candidate for this test program. Concerned citizens need to be heard by the people who will make that decision with input from professional music educators.
One element of the proposed “blueprint” would be the creation of a public-private task force to revamp school music throughout the Orange Unified district. But even without the full blueprint implementation, members of the Music Matters Committee have called for the creation of just such a task force. How will we solve this problem: by shouting across a divide, or working together at the same table?
Beneath all this wrangling are a number of bedrock truths. First of all, a detailed study of school finances shows that cutting music teachers actually leads to a net increase in educational expenses, due to the resources that are required elsewhere to teach the same students. Cutting music to save money won’t just fail; it will backfire.
Most important is the way we frame this issue. Music is a part of the core curriculum, and district leaders need to treat it as such when they make decisions about our children’s future. The research is unequivocal: scientists have shown that it fosters growing brains, leads to greater success in school and elsewhere, and correlates with later skills in math and science – but these benefits can only be realized in the very young. After a certain age, the boat has sailed. Are the kids in the OUSD to miss it?
Note: You can contact Angel LaMarca at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 714-493-0121
Metro VIEWS is a community service of the Greater Orange Communities Organization. Opinions expressed in Metro VIEWS are the opinions of the writers and not necessarily the networks that ecast them.