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Buffalo’s Struggling Music Program

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Author: dianeravitch

The state is getting ready to turn Buffalo’s lowest performing schools over to a receiver. It sounds like Michigan’s emergency manager plan, created by Republican Governor Rivk Snyder. The emergency managers handed the schools over to for-profit charter chains. It hasn’t helped or even turned a profit.

On the ground in Buffalo, there are realities, like this story about a homeless boy who loved music. The music program in Buffalo public schools saved him.

But Buffalo can’t afford to have a music teacher in every school.

“Of all the elective programs in the city’s schools, instrumental music has been hit the hardest. During the 2012 school year, the program had 20 full-time teachers spread among the district’s 56 schools. According to the district’s budget posted on its website (page 41 of 70), this year the number is at 13.74 full-time positions and slated drop to 9.86 next year, when the supplemental and temporary funding the program has received from Mayor Byron Brown for the past two years expires. A Contract for Excellence grant boosts that number to 24.16 for the current year.

“Of those 24.16 positions, 14.1 of them are in high schools, leaving ten teachers scattered throughout the district floating between buildings, in some cases to teach one class per six-day cycle.

“Amy Steiner works in three different buildings to provide instrumental music instruction for 40 minutes once a cycle. “I can’t get anything going, and I’m a good teacher,” says Steiner, who was honored by Business First in 2010. “They are literally wasting money.”

“It’s not just teacher positions that have been defunded. The instruments have been neglected, too. The total budget for the program’s supplies is just over $4,000. The current budget for instrument repairs is zero. By way of comparison, the budget for extracurricular athletic programming is just over $3 million—six times greater than the total budget for the academic instrumental music program.”

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