Art courses

Arts programs are important in our schools

Review Editor’s Note: Editorials represent the views of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently of the newsroom.

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Numerous studies, as well as testimonials from students and families, support the significance of the arts and arts education. Involvement in music, drama, dance, painting, drawing and other forms of artistic expression is not only good for young hearts and souls, but also for the development of minds.

That’s why schools — even those under huge budget pressures — should take whatever steps are necessary to maintain arts programs.

A recent Star Tribune story reported the possibility of many proposed cuts in the arts at Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) — with some of the worst at South High School. If the proposed cuts are approved by the school board this month, South’s popular dance program as well as the school’s music and drama/theater offerings could be significantly reduced.

Elsewhere in the district, full-time equivalent music positions are being cut at Andersen Middle School, Hmong International Academy Elementary and North High. This high school’s dance class was recently the subject of another story that detailed how it is attracting a growing number of students and helping them stay engaged in their studies.

In a statement to an editorial writer, MPS officials said that when a “second budget process took place to include contractual obligations made as a result of the teachers’ strike, further reductions in staff positions were required” . These reductions occurred across all content areas and schools and typically focused on classes that had low enrollment and/or low student interest, they said.

Officials stressed that the reduction in positions does not necessarily translate into job losses for individuals, as they could access vacant positions. They also noted that recommendations to “substitute a position could be the decision of the school administration or the employee themselves.” They added that when schools face budget cuts, they usually focus on maintaining positions in core subjects rather than electives – which are often art classes.

The district’s budget issues are primarily due to the significant drop in enrollment and rising expenses, including the recently negotiated contract for teachers. The cuts will likely continue unless the district adopts other strategies to address these factors. St. Paul Public Schools is also experiencing declining enrollment, but has chosen to close schools to maintain “well balanced” educational options in the remaining buildings.

As MPS continues its search for a new superintendent, now is a great time for families to let school board members and district officials know what they expect from a new leader — and academic programs and artistic.

A recent survey members of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD) found that districts could face a combined budget shortfall of more than $240 million for the 2022-23 school year, assuming no additional funding. is provided by the state. If that were the case, many metropolitan areas as well as large districts in Minnesota will understandably have to make tough budget decisions.

In making these choices, we hope they will carefully weigh the educational and other benefits of music, drama, dance, and other arts classes and consider other possible strategies for saving money.


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