Every time there is an economic down turn or some other event that could threaten music and arts education programs I often search for a sign, an article, a report that would provide some clues as to what may actually happen.
Now we are faced with not one… but two shifts of the techtonic plates that will create seizmic activity in the educational arena unlike anything we have seen in a generation.
The Presidential election is one earthquake. Regardless of the winner tomorrow there will be changes, probably significant, and maybe even favorable to the arts.
The other earthquake of the economic down turn continues to shake across this country… and the fallout from this event is just now starting to emerge.
Yesterday, a newspaper in Rhode Island reported on the threats to arts education across the state. Last week, we learned the record arts funding for the state of California was at risk.
What does this have to do with the Canary in the Coal Mine?
Well, Early coal mines did not feature ventilation systems, so miners would routinely bring a caged canary into new coal seams. Canaries are ideal for detecting any dangerous gas build-ups. As long as the canary in a coal mine kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe. A dead canary in a coal mine signalled an immediate danger.
While one story does not a trend make… might Rhode Island be our canary in the coal mine?
WEST WARWICK — Stephen Saunders knew he was part of a vanishing breed — a district art supervisor who coordinated programs from kindergarten through 12th grade. He pushed for students to have access to weekly art classes and helped art teachers integrate new techniques and standards into their curriculum, a job he held for 19 of his 35 years as an educator.
But after a round of deep cuts to Warwick’s school budget last year, Saunders’ position was eliminated and he found himself in an extinct group. “I think I was the last full-time arts supervisor in the state,” said Saunders, who now works as an elementary art teacher.
School administrators across Rhode Island are facing tough financial decisions — as well as mounting pressure to boost performance on state tests in English and math. In many cases, districts are cutting music and art programs, calling them luxuries they can no longer afford.