Schools, Budget Cuts, and Music

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Jan 18, 2012    •    699 Views

By Mira Korber, guest blogger.

The story is familiar. With a tight economy and insufficient funds, public schools have to cut back. Music, physical education, and language classes are the first to go. And along with the classes go the teachers; since 2008, over 294,000 teaching positions have evaporated.

While some believe retaining core classes — English, History, Math — is more important than a substantial music program, studies show that kids who study the arts actually have greater success in academic fields including reading and writing.

In fact, global music programs, such as the famous “El Sistema” in Venezuela, have shown their music students have a drop-out rate of 7% versus the national 25%.

This doesn’t solve the global music education vs. budget problem. But it does show that the opportunity cost of cutting music classes could be high.

The Economic Lesson

When you make a decision, you always give something up, which is otherwise known as your opportunity cost. With budget cuts already in place and more on the way, school boards have to choose what stays in school and what doesn’t. When a school board makes a decision, there’s always some kind of trade-off. For example:

Eliminate music teachers and keep the same number of math teachers to avoid larger classes. Use older editions of textbooks to keep teachers of any subject employed.

Yet in terms of long-run consequences, cutting music classes may have negative effects on students’ academic success.

An Economic Question: Do you think it is possible to balance the arts with an economically viable school budget?


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