Recently, the Lansing School District released a series of TV and radio ads designed to promote their schools (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pV60aDl44g). Amid a floating stream of expertly produced and edited video of young children bouncing basketballs and playing music instruments, the voiceover claims that the Lansing Schools "offer more educational choices to students than any other school district in the greater Lansing region." This, in spite of the fact that the District decided to slash the offerings for those very children by eliminating all of the 27 elementary art, music and PE positions in the Lansing schools over a year ago, leaving the city's students with only 2 music, art and PE classes per semester, while their peers in neighboring school systems often receive these classes twice per week.
Now, if the superintendent, board of education and teachers union in Lansing had just gotten together and cut the elementary art, music and PE programs and teachers in the schools, that would have been one thing...
But to hear the former AMPE program now be referred to as the "Innovative Arts & Fitness" Department, as though there is
anything "innovative" in firing 27 teachers and depriving thousands of children of a full and complete education...
To read press releases and interviews with district officials touting the current art and music offerings as being better than
what was previously in place, because of the presence of "real artists and musicians" in Lansing's schools...
- To see that the LSD held a promotional fair at the Lansing Center this past weekend, with radio and media coverage, in an effort to stem the tide of those leaving the District, largely due to the curricular narrowing and impoverished offerings now available at the elementary level...
And now, for the art and music teachers in Lansing who had their careers taken away to be subjected to thousands of dollars
worth of TV and radio ads promoting the "rich and diverse curricular offerings" in the Lansing School District, even as the elementary curriculum has been gutted of art, music and PE, and to
know that their former students are only receiving instruction in these subjects 4 TIMES PER YEAR...
Let me be clear: I believe that there are many excellent teachers in the Lansing schools, including several outstanding music
teachers working in the District's high schools. I've been blown away by what the music students and faculty are doing in Lansing, especially given the difficult conditions under which they are
working. These students and teachers deserve nothing but our support, encouragement and respect.
But cuts to music and art programs in any school system are unacceptable ways to manage school finances, and are disproportionately devastating to children in urban communities, whose families may not have the resources to provide them with alternative forms of instruction in the arts. School district leaders are charged with providing the students in their care with a full and comprehensive education, which includes the arts. Eliminating these offerings, at any level, is an abrogation of their duty, and merits a strong and forceful response.
The children in Lansing deserve strong, quality arts programs, delivered by qualified, certified music and art teachers. What is currently being offered as "Innovative" is unacceptable, and the District needs to restore the teaching positions they have eliminated so that Lansing's students get the education that they deserve.