I have read many posts and stories from parents asking for "robust" arts education in District 65, and I wanted to express my concern with this approach.
I do want my child to have access to the arts - however, I am concerned that the amount of money currently being spent on the wide variety of arts programming in D65 is taking money away from other essential programs. In an arts-friendly community like Evanston it is easy to get a large group of people to support programming - but parents whose kids need academic or other supports don't tend to have as loud a voice, even though those needs affect the entire student population. In short, I love the arts - one of my degrees is in Drama - and I'd love to offer a variety of programming - but not at the expense of our kids getting what they NEED.
There is only so much money in the school budget, and when I hear that arts programming is increased, I wonder where that money is coming from. To make an educated guess, ask yourself how much time your teacher is spending managing "differentiation" on their own - or managing special needs kids without full-time in-classroom support - these affect all kids in every school. I hear parents say that programming is not a zero-sum game, but to date we have lost bus and classroom aides, and PE teachers, social workers, SPED teachers and various therapists are frequently "shared" between schools and classrooms (read: spread thinner) rather than supporting kids in an appropriate, stable and predictable way. I feel it is also important to note that D65 has a poor reputation in the surrounding area for its delivery of special services, and know families who have opted to remove their children or move out of town for this reason.
I don't think a majority in the City will support a tax increase, which leaves redistributing the budget (meaning, cuts) as the only option for funding. I think we can and should advocate for an excellent full-time art teacher and an excellent full-time music teacher in each school, along with the tools they need to do their job, but beyond that, I wish arts advocates would consider asking D65 to offer the other options in a fiscally responsible manner, and find middle ground rather than asking for every possible kind of programming.
To that end, I have two ideas - either make Drama and Band/Orchestra and programs like them into afterschool enrichment programs available on a sliding-scale fee (including instrument rental, which I don't think is managed as equitably as many people assume) or combine them at the middle school level to make all the different programs available as ONE elective art course (so a student could choose, for instance, either Drama or Band, but not both in the same semester.) This is in no way an implication of either program; we have had a good experience with them.
I wish the same could be said for the programs and services that I feel aren't getting the attention they deserve.