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Save the money, kill the arts - Ryan Whelchel

On March 22nd the Clayton County School Board held a meeting to decide on what to do to correct the county's financial situation.

Though the music department had what some would view as a great victory, almost no cuts, the initial plan was to target music and art programs first. Every time that there is a financial problem in any school or university system it always seems that music and art programs are the first to get the axe.

It's most likely viewed that these programs are not direct education that would benefit the students, therefore making it easy to cut them. Music and art work so much more differently than other core classes. These programs are those in which the student opted to take, meaning that it was something the student wanted to take. When you're taking a class for shear enjoyment it gives you motivation and direction in everything that you do. As pointed out by many individuals before, students who take music and art classes have been proven to do better on exams, and maybe more importantly, feel better about themselves.

People seem to believe that because a sizable group of students in high school band and orchestra classes don't go on to college to pursue these programs any further, its almost a waste in high school, and lower education levels. Because who doesn't go on to college to not have to take English and Math classes? Everyone has to, so that's why those classes are last looked at for budget cuts. Even though core teacher positions are going to take a cut, this is only possible by increasing the class capacity to maximum by state law.

It's bad that any position has to be cut, because in some way all the positions are beneficial to all involved. Physical Education teachers suffered a great cut in numbers as well. Probably the main reason as to why the music programs received no serious blow, was because of the public outcry to not have them banned. Even at the meeting parents and students showed up in great numbers to show how much they truly believed in their cause. And right now the School Board needs to do whatever will please the masses after a year long battle with the community, promising it that they were back on track after being placed on probation for this school year.

If there was no public outcry to protect the music programs, then chances are that right now steps would be in place to remove the positions that were announced as an option. This is one of the best instances that prove if you stand up for what you truly and honestly believe in, then you can overcome all odds. Money problems can be pretty severe, especially with the deficient that the board faces, but if you cut into what truly matters that is worse than any amount of debt.

It's hard to find other means as to how to keep the money in the right place and keep public morale at a happy level too. Finding the balance between the two is a worldwide problem with anything. The number of students attending school increases, while the money that is allotted decreases, as well as the number of teachers who are actually there to instill knowledge into their pupils.

Schools are becoming overcrowded, and you can only build so many new schools within a county, before you realize there is an overpopulation problem. How to solve these problems, well, it's another problem. And no one knows for sure, but the School Board meeting proved that more than the School Board should be involved. Parents and students need to take a more active role in their environment, to ensure everyone's future. That doesn't mean you win every battle. Some losses are required to gain the greater good. But you have to be required to work for the good, you just can't stand by and shake your head. Everyone has a voice, you just have to know when to speak.

Ryan Whelchel is a graduate of Jonesboro High and attends Georgia State University. He is an occasional columnist for the News Daily.