Joe Henderson: Bringing music education back to schools strikes right chord

High School Students Playing In School Orchestra Together
Pilot program for K-2nd grade music education would be a step in the right direction

You could call the last ten years as the decade the music died in Florida public schools. A bill by Republican state Sen. Keith Perry to bring music education back is a small step back in the right direction.

It might even become a reality.

The Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program, would, according to the bill’s language, “assist selected school districts in implementing comprehensive music education programs for students in kindergarten through grade 2.”

Bravo.

It passed the Senate by a 40-0 vote.

Why was this needed? For that, we go back to the start of the decade. The budgets of school districts throughout the state were under siege. The Great Recession caused economic chaos throughout the state. It hit schools particularly hard.

Arts education programs were among the first cuts as school boards were forced to make tough choices. Remember, they were also grappling with demands to produce high scores on the state’s FCAT tests.

Failure to meet those academic standards could have catastrophic consequences.

It was already bad, but the first budget proposed by new-Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 made it worse. Scott effectively cut K-12 spending by $1.3 billion, and although he restored some of that in money in later years it never quite caught up to the pre-cut levels.

Florida had approximately 2.6 million public school students in 2010. By 2018, that had grown to about 2.7 million, but funding hadn’t kept up.

The benefits of music, especially at an early age, have been well documented.

A piece in psy-ed.com noted, “Being educated musically from a young age has profound benefits for the mind … scientists are amassing a significant body of evidence which suggests that playing music during childhood can indeed improve brain function.”

The notion that public education should focus heavily on math and science classes ignores a basic fact. Music, literature, and humanities are necessary for a well-rounded education.

If Perry’s pilot program becomes law, the state’s school system won’t collapse. Kindergarten through second-grade students in some districts would take a music class from a certified instructor twice weekly for at least 30 minutes.

Math scores won’t crater because of this. Schools will still produce the same number of future scientists as they do now.

This proposal is a step in the right direction toward fixing something that has been broken for far too long.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.



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