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District 4J has lost half its arts teachers
ARTICLE | APRIL 11, 2013 - 1:00AM | BY ANNE BRIDGMAN
At Churchill High School, potters’ wheels sit unused inside a dark room. At a number of schools in town, stages are dark because reduced funds have shuttered performing arts programs. And at most of Eugene’s elementary schools, students get music instruction for just a quarter of the year.
Participating in art and music classes teaches children to make good judgments, solve problems and celebrate multiple perspectives, advocates say. It strengthens the learning environment and provides the spark that keeps some students coming to school. But budget cuts in 4J, like those nationwide, have consistently slashed music and art programs to the point that in many schools, they’re a mere shadow of what they once were.
“We have lost our depth and breadth of what we can offer,” says Lance Eagen, an art teacher at Churchill. “We as humans are designed to be well-rounded; we have two halves of the brain. We’re not ignoring that right side of the brain, but we’re certainly underserving that side of the brain.”
Today, 4J has roughly half the art and music teachers it had a decade ago. In 1991-92, the district had 15.6 full-time equivalent (FTE) art teachers; this year, the district has 8.5 FTE. Eleven years ago, 4J had 30.7 FTE music teachers; this year, there are 17.8 FTE.
Nine weeks a year
The district decided this year to provide music specialists — as they’ve done with physical education specialists — to each elementary school for nine weeks a year. “The nine-week situation is a huge improvement in many ways,” says Kerry Delf, 4J’s communications coordinator.
Before this year, schools were given staffing allocations based on projected enrollment, the needs index and other factors. Each school’s administrators then decided how many teachers taught which subjects, leading to difficult choices between including subjects such as art and music and increasing class size and reducing class size at the expense of art and music. Wide variability among schools resulted, with some students getting no music and art at all.
This year, students get nine weeks of music, as they get nine weeks of PE. “It would be great if we could provide [these subjects] year-round,” says Delf, “but we remain in dire financial times.”
Chris Mudd has taught music in 4J for 15 years and oversees 4J music education. He notes that while it’s good that all elementary schools get some music instruction during the year, “this is far from the ideal.” When he taught at Parker Elementary and saw every student every week year-round, he says, he was able to “just scratch the surface.” Today, with just nine weeks of music, “there is a limit to what can be covered.”
Whether students get music the other weeks of the school year is up to individual classroom teachers. They’re not required to offer music because, according to Sara Cramer, 4J’s director of elementary education, music isn’t required by the state.
At the elementary level, art is not included in the nine-week program and is taught by classroom teachers as they are able, often as part of the school-day curriculum. “PE and music were considered [for the nine-week program] primarily because we still had certified teachers providing instruction in those two curricular areas at the elementary level,” explains Cramer. “We have not had certified art teachers at the elementary level for at least 15 years.”
Supplementing district-provided music and teacher-provided art are programs funded by grants from the Eugene Education Foundation and those supported by community arts...
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