At a time when interest seems to be declining in the support of music and arts programs in the schools, one school system saw a need to provide a grand piano for instruction in the public schools.The Kansas City, Kansas school board under the leadership of Cynthia Lane, just approved the purchase of a grand piano for $48,191, which includes the cost of transportation and a protective cover. Apparently, the Summer Academy program needed the piano to keep instep with the other summer programs in the state and the piano would be utilized in the music classrooms during the school year each day.
This decision, however, did not gain approval by all of the citizens, as some feel the purchase price was extremely high, in light of some of the other problems in the school district which needed preference, such as providing tutors for the children and taking more steps to close the achievement gap. Additionally, the Governor, Sam Brownback, has advised the state that he would recommend reducing the education budget by $127 million overall in the state. The Governor may be justifying his decision based on the mean scores for students who took the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) examinations. For example, 4th grade math students in Kansas obtained median scores (250) or under the median scores out of a total of 500 points. Kansas spends $11,557 per year per student on education.
Some would believe the purchase of a grand piano is justified, in view of the fact that a music education is beneficial to the students. Music students have better reading and math skills and they tend to score better on standardized tests. No doubt, the music department, the school board members, and the superintendent are aware of this fact.
Art and music programs are not supported in most schools because of the school officials’ attempts to meet the standards that must be adhered to in compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Which requires the students to be tested annually in reading, math, and science. If the students are not making progress, the schools risk losing their federal funding, may be given federal sanctions, may be required to provide tutoring for the struggling students, may require transfer of the students to other school districts, or may require restructuring of the schools. Because art and music students are not tested, and the schools place a priority on academics, many student miss out on the enrichment that art and music can provide.
This is an interesting issue and perhaps more school systems should consider offering more music programs to the students to help them on standardized tests. For now, however, the schools will have to rely on outside agencies to offer music programs to their students.