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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 4:31 pm | Fair 61º


SBHS Music Students United ... Against Budget Cuts

Teens back up impassioned plea with data confirming benefits of music education.


The Santa Barbara School District must cut $4 million from its budget or risk losing local control. Strike One. We got it. Doesn’t matter how or why adults got us in this mess. As students, we just know there are consequences — and that consequences should not include cutting teachers or important programs that make a critical difference in outcomes.

Just like the "No Child Left Behind" testing program and federal mandates. Either your school and district make the grade, or they don’t. If kids aren’t taught right from the very beginning starting in infancy, for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter. The end result’s the same. There’s cleanup, remedial work and strategies that adults put into place to compensate for failure. Under NCLB, schools must capture enough high-scoring students to offset the number of students who perform poorly — and reallocate funding to bring up test scores. Otherwise, they risk the loss of local control. Strike Two. We got it. A strike against our district, and one against our high school: one strike for poor fiscal management, one in academic performance. Too bad for us.

The rule remains three strikes and you’re out. Too bad for us as the situation worsens, with more planned reductions and loss, followed by disappointment and being forced into the lowest common denominator.

In plain English we’re facing larger class sizes; loss of the seven-period day and opportunities to learn because of shorter school days in junior high school; and having to waste time waiting around to keep us all in the same stable because it costs less.

Just this week, for example, Santa Barbara High sophomores were given the two-day California High School Exit Exam. While most finished in under an hour each day, we were stuck for four hours in a room waiting to be dismissed after everyone schoolwide had finished. Reason: Must be space, supervision, cost issues.

Adults are responsible for making the system work, aren’t they? Too bad, it’s broken. It now needs each of us to fix it, not to just complain.

As members of Music Students United (MSU), we are high-achieving high school and SBCC dual-enrollment students, community volunteers, mentors, musicians, performers. Many of us are also athletes, some are business owners or employees. We are disciplined, determined, focused students who want taxpayers to get a high return on their investment in us.

What’s MSU? Students from all three high schools united initially to help provide funding for LaCumbre Middle School when it reopened as a junior high. We then went on to help interested students master their instrument. We perform benefit concerts. We research, talk, respond. We’re part of the important connection between secondary students on seven unique campuses.

We’re disappointed, sad, that the system is broken; and now frustrated, mad that adults won’t do what needs to be done to fix it. It’s now up to us, but we need your help. When we appeared before our school board leaders Tuesday night, at least one top administrator misspoke, thinking we hadn’t done our homework.

As minors, we must depend on you, the adults, to look after our best interests. We cannot make public policy or provide accountability and oversight. You can.

If you agree that at the starting line every young, willing student in the public school system deserves to be given a chance to enjoy success, you can help. Our local public school system can be designed and operated on a financially sound basis that would benefit all students.

It all starts with Music.

If you want high test scores from every student; if you want to reduce campus and community violence and even possibly drug use; if you want to give students a purpose, discipline, high self esteem; if you want to be responsive to requests from kids on our streets … THEN YOU NEED TO DEMAND THAT INSTUCTIONAL MUSIC CLASSES BE PART OF THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM ON EVERY ONE OF OUR CAMPUSES — and be provided to every student, each and every school day starting in kindergarten. You’ll get results.

If you agree that it’s time to do what’s right, to do what needs to be done, and you want to stop paying for all this remedial stuff, then act on the research, the proof: music instruction results in smarter, more productive students. Music’s good for the brain and the soul.

Are you aware that when more than 200 local teens were surveyed by Kristi Curtis and ShapeofVoice.com, they said one of the three things they would change would be for schools to provide music and performing arts opportunities.

Kids want and need music and performing arts. We all want opportunities to be successful, to be judged on our performance and not on our ethnicity, address, parents or our lot in life.

Are you aware there’s proof that violin playing equals less violence? That local philanthropist Paul Orfaela has donated and will donate as many violins as needed to our schools? All we need from our district trustees, from you, is a commitment for teachers and classroom space.

It’s time to give every student a chance. Make developmental music programs part of the school day the very first week of elementary school. Add performing arts and public speaking programs by fourth and fifth grade that give us confidence and to benefit from applause. Ensure that every elementary student has a path to achieve success.

Now is not the time to make any cuts in the junior or senior high school instrumental music and performing arts programs. Now is the time to expand them despite declining enrollment while you start teaching the young kids.

Please, adults: do what needs to be done. Advocate for us, protect programs that work — programs that are responsive to kids, programs that research proves make a difference. Give our dedicated, tireless teaches the job security they deserve, and us the benefit of all their leadership, instruction, and everything else they give us.

Trust us, the investment in our teachers and in local students who want to succeed will prove one of the best you’ve ever made.

Andrew Adams, Georgia Macy and Ray Macy
Santa Barbara High School Music Students United

This letter was also signed by Santa Barbara High Music Students United members Hasmine Arellano, Matt Blitzers, Aaron Capelli, Adrian Diosdado, Rene Garcia, Chrissa Guillen, Crystal Harrell, Hack Haskins, Ryan Hunt, Heidy Juarez, Francisca Lara, Luis Manjarrez, Sachary McGee, Michael "Miguel" Miranda, Erika Mora, Michael Nunez, Karla Perez, Matt Raphaelian, Miguel Sahagen, Markis Schen, Joey Thomas, Tyler Yahyavi, Heidy Juarez and Sienna Walters.

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