Music programs have a history of getting pushed aside in favor of subjects considered to be more academically valuable. From the 1970’s onward, music and arts have been routinely cut from school budgets. Until recently, New York City lacked almost any arts education program, and the Los Angeles school district had one specialty arts teacher per 4,700 students (Coeyman, 1998). According to the California Department of Education, the percentage of children who have access to music education has declined by half over the past five years (American). In addition, California schools are considering removing any music requirement for graduation (American). There are two main reasons for these cuts: money and test scores (Moran, 2004). In the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act, music education has been yet again squeezed from school budgets and schedules. With pressure mounting to raise reading and math scores, school administrators have added more reading and math classes that leave little opportunity for elective courses like music (Moran, 2004). Music teacher employment has been decreased to the point that in Seattle, eleven teachers teach all of the elementary music classes in the district’s seventy schools (de Barros, 2004).
No Child Left Behind
Though No Child Left Behind is intended to improve the education system of the United States, interpretations of the act have lead to cuts in music education programs across the nation. While No Child Left Behind is a good idea in theory, in practice it has yet to work. The focus of funding has turned from what is good for students to what will help raise test scores. Paul Young, former president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, commented on the trend among his colleagues to shrink funding for music education. As stated in a press release, “Music education helps a student learn ‘how to think,’ and without it schools are only ‘creating kids who are able to pass tests’” (Andrews, 2003). He is further quoted as saying, “When you take the arts away, particularly music, you’re messing with a community’s identity. Those principals out there who don’t understand that and are only focusing on test scores are making a mistake” (Andrews, 2003). Secretary of Education Rod Paige echoes Young’s sentiments: “No Child Left Behind included the arts as a core academic subject because of their importance to a child’s education” (2004).