Music programs thrive despite funding cuts
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Teachers in local school programs known as "specials" have gotten used to improvising through the years.
Whether it be physical education, art or music -- even librarians and nurses -- numerous employees of Hays USD 489 no longer go to school in the morning and leave the same building in the afternoon.
Because of budget cuts, teachers in those programs have to be creative.
In music alone, the state has lost more than 500 teachers in the past four years, according to a survey done by the Kansas Music Eeducation Association advocacy committee.
"Everybody is having to do more, work a little harder," said Craig Manteuffel, director of bands for USD 489 and president of KMEA.
Despite the cuts, however, music is still alive and well in the Hays district.
"Funding has certainly been cut, but our community has rallied and helped us through fundraising," he said. "That's helped us maintain and even continue to grow."
It's a well-known fact students who participate in music usually excel in academics as well. In fact, at February's KMEA state convention in Wichita, the state honor groups (band, orchestra and vocal) were polled on their ACT scores, which averaged 27.5.
The national average is 21.1, and the state average for Kansas is 21.9.
"Studies say the effects of kids being involved in music at an early age affects their test scores," said Johnny Matlock, director of vocal choir at Hays High School.
Joan Crull, one of the orchestra instructors in the district, also teaches general music at O'Loughlin Elementary School.
"It's all about the kids," she said. "You do whatever you have to do to give them a good experience."
"We're not alone. Everybody is traveling. Teachers are stretched a little further."
Nonetheless, Crull said the end product is still as quality as ever.
"Every year, we have several kids who want to be a music educator," she said.
"That's very rewarding," Matlock said, "to see they enjoy it and see that it's a good profession."