LETTER: Arts Commission shares concerns about Kent School cuts

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader.
It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of I Love Kent nor its staff:
]

May 22, 2019

Letter from the City of Kent Arts Commission to the Kent School District School Board:

We at the Arts Commission recently received letters from many parents, students and educators concerning the pending cut-backs to the district’s music program, including combining classes, and eliminating other classes entirely. We are truly dismayed at the tragic and misplaced prioritization of the education budget. The decision to reduce music classes impacts our community from the youngest to oldest citizens.

Brain development research indicates that music and visual arts enhance, expand and maximize brain function in human beings. In other words, music arts are vital to how young minds mature and grow. These important benefits are contingent upon ongoing, uninterrupted and consistent exposure to music and the arts. Students in the Kent School District are missing out on this consistency due to the down-sizing of music offerings, shifting of teachers to varied locations, and creation of situations where music classes are in competition with other electives.

To sustain and support music in schools, music and arts must be recognized as essential in education. Without effective leadership in music education over time (years), programs cannot be effectively developed to a flourishing level at which students are eager to participate in choir, band, or orchestra. Consistent participation builds loyalty among students and to the school, further resulting in elevated test scores and eagerness for secondary and higher education. Long term retention of teachers requires that the educators feel valued and supported. Forcing teachers to work part time hours at inconsistent and varied locations is not helping us to keep our excellent professionals.

In the face of aggression in the schools, increased need for security, and teachers feeling at risk, a solid music program throughout K-12 should be mandatory. Incorporating curriculum that has been proven, both statistically and practically, to change cultures in a positive direction should be a minimal and early priority when it comes to budget and staff planning.

If you, the board, value the arts as you’ve stated, you must act in alignment with those values. We, the Arts Commissioners of Kent, urge you to find a way to continue music programs to their fullest extent so that our future leaders can become the creative, well-rounded, and healthy individuals we desire them to be.

Signed,
Commissioners Suzanne Smith, Dan Cox, Gerard Philpotts, Susan Bagrationoff, Christy Caravaglio, Bayard DuBois, Tonya Goodwillie, Campbell Kristenson, Susan Machler, Linda Mackintosh, Colleen Maloney, Hal O’Brien, Michael Taskey, Sandi Westman, Sherelle Owens. Staff: Ronda Billerbeck

10 ARTS EDUCATION FAST FACTS:

    1. A student involved in the arts is four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.
    2. Students with high arts participation and low socioeconomic status have a 4 percent dropout rate—five times lower than their low socioeconomic status peers.
    3. Students who take four years of arts and music classes average almost 100 points higher on their SAT scores than students who take only one-half year or less.
    4. Low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are twice as likely to graduate college as their peers with no arts education.
    5. 72 percent of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they are seeking when hiring.
    6. 93 percent of Americans believe that the arts are vital to providing a well-rounded education.
    7. The arts are recognized as a core academic subject under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and 48 states have adopted standards for learning in the arts.
    8. Two-thirds of public school teachers believe that the arts are getting crowded out of the school day.
    9. 97 percent of elementary schools nationwide don’t offer dance and 96 percent don’t offer theater.
    10. In 2008, African-American and Hispanic students had less than half of the access to arts education than their White peers.

(from https://www.americansforthearts.org/by-topic/arts-education)

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