Since I last posted about Florida’s education budget cuts last year, nothing has really been done in the state to cut spending on government projects nor raising revenue to offset the budget shortfalls. Falling home prices continue to set the trend for declining tax revenues, and as consumers and businesses scale back spending, the sales taxes and property taxes that the state relies on are vanishing rapidly. This year, it means that $466 million will be cut from the Florida public school budget. That’s about 2 percent of total spending. Now, education isn’t the only thing being cut. You can read the whole 2009 Florida budget details here, but be advised that the legislature is expecting to make even more cuts over the next few months.
Of course, this means that education budgets are on the chopping block and the state is buzzing with rumors and hints of how the students may be affected next year.
In Duval county, there is a lot of current talk about possibly eliminating art and music classes outright. Or, at the very least, these subjects may be taught by homeroom teachers and general education majors who have no particular experience with visual or audio techniques. While it may sound absurd, this is actually being reported as a likely outcome by the local newspapers and high ranking members of the local education administration.
As the benefits of art and music are sometimes seen as abstract: creativity, manual accuracy, etc… they are still generally considered to be real benefits that students can gain in the classroom. Marketing firms understand the value of visual design, catchy music, and beautifully functional composition – but politicians and government bureaucrats are often less sensitive to the role these subjects play in everyday life.
It is very likely that the greatest benefit of music and art is not just the objects and songs and sounds produced, but the thoughts that those works provoke in the performer and the audience. True art is inspirational – it motivates us to create change, to work harder, to aim higher…
Yet the crisis of money is real. Priorities must be made when there isn’t enough to fund all of the worthy pursuits of society. If people are losing their homes – If parents are wondering how they will feed their children or where the family will sleep tomorrow night, perhaps art and song isn’t the immediate concern. For many students of our local schools, this is the exact situation. Some may have a home to live in, but they may be living in the midst of daily neighborhood violence, little adult supervision, and constant harassment.
In one sense, art can bring order and hope to such an environment. In another, its the last thing someone needs when utter survival is at stake. The question is, are these art and music programs going to be replaced by ones that will benefit those students and young citizens who need it the most? Probably not.