DON'T VIEW SCHOOL MUSIC AS LUXURY
La Grande residents, especially those who have had kids in schools over the past few decades, long have known that the district has an excellent music education program. The choral and band programs have provided students an excellent base from which to grow and excel, and the programs have given the La Grande district a sense of pride.
Now comes word that the district's music education program has been recognized as one of the 100 best in the nation. Only La Grande and West Linn were so recognized among programs in Oregon, and they were among a handful of communities on the West Coast to receive the honor from the American Music Conference. Designees were selected based on districts' devotion to music education from a budgetary standpoint, teacher-student ratios and community support. Everyone involved in the La Grande school music program should be congratulated.
As Jim Howell, band teacher, said, the honor goes beyond the district to the community and "the climate it has created for music education.''
The high school's A Cappella Choir has won the past two state Class 3A choral titles. The band won the state 3A title in 2001 and consistently has students placing highly in individual competitions. The district's music students consistently carry with them a sense of pride and accomplishment. The programs enrich the lives of the students, their families and the community.
Interestingly enough, the "100 Best'' designation comes at a time when school districts across the state are paring budgets in order to meet a substantial drop in revenue. La Grande is not exempt. The district has taken steps to whittle $1.2 million out of its budget for next year and is preparing a second and more severe round of cuts one that will double the cuts of the first round. More staff and some programs are sure to fall by the wayside as the district struggles to balance its projected revenue for the 2003-04 school year.
Music, however, shouldn't be viewed as a luxury the district could live without. The program has a longstanding tradition as an important element in La Grande schools.
Some things will have to give to balance the budget for 2003-04. Preferably, programs in general can be whittled so that the district won't have to cut entire programs. That the Legislature isn't looking for new revenue sources doesn't help the matter. In fact, it's a travesty. Districts won't be able to provide the same level of services with a 25 percent cut in their budgets no matter how hard they squeeze out what some legislators and citizens believe to be excesses.
Music and art and alternative education, to name a few, are likely to be among the programs districts put on the chopping block. But for many students, such programs aren't extras or luxuries, they're lifelines to education.