May 28, 2021
Robert Miller is a private percussion teacher and retired Howard County Public School System music educator. Mr. Miller serves on the AEMS Educator Council and the Baltimore Arts Education Initiative Advisory Committee, Instrumental Music Working Group, and Funding Working Group. Mr. Miller’s Letter to the Editor, published in the Baltimore Sun on May 15, 2021, outlines an opportunity for school community members to advocate for increased investment in arts education with new federal and state funding. While the survey and first round of meetings Mr. Miller mentions have finished, we encourage anyone who is interested in learning more and sharing their voice with the district to attend the next round of community meetings between June 14 and June 26. Stay tuned on our social media for sign up details or use the buttons below to join the meetings on the correct date!
READERS RESPOND, Baltimore Sun: May 15, 2021
Bring back the arts to Baltimore public schools
Most every public school student in Maryland from late elementary school through high school has the opportunity to participate in band and string programs, except in Baltimore City. Only about 12% of Baltimore’s public schools have any curricular instrumental music program. Most city students miss out on much of the arts education that students in the rest of Maryland take for granted. They are deprived of preparing for arts-related career options, scholarship opportunities, academic and social-emotional learning enhancement, and the development of artistic skills and experiences that can lead to much more fulfilling lives.
Finally, potential for change is arriving, thanks to funds from the American Rescue Plan, and the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (“Kirwan veto override: Lawmakers take a stand for schools,” Feb. 8). The former can help jumpstart arts programs, and the latter can maintain them. The importance of a well-rounded education is increasingly acknowledged by education experts. And, due to the pandemic, maybe more than ever arts education can benefit students’ mental health and self-esteem while providing a place to belong, be creative and passionate and derive a feeling of accomplishment. Baltimore City Public Schools will soon be making decisions as to how to spend these funds. If city residents want these opportunities for their students, there is now something they can do.
Stakeholders can go to baltimorecityschools.org and click on “Reconnect, Restore, Reimagine.” From there, they can fill out the survey and register to speak at one or more of the input meetings. Residents must let their voices be heard before May 20, and then provide feedback in June. Presently, a long-term proposal exists to bring instrumental music opportunities to essentially all Baltimore public school students and a proposal exists to expand other arts opportunities. Letting the school system know that more equitable arts education opportunities are desired by Baltimore residents should inform decision-making. A dent in the funding could tremendously benefit many thousands of students and families.
To prevent the recurrence of the disintegration of city arts programs in the future, it is necessary that arts programs be centrally mandated, as they are in the rest of the state’s public school districts. Advocates can also urge that funding, staffing and scheduling options be central office based and not left up to which administrator is at which school. Students at every school deserve quality arts education opportunities.