When the economy takes a downward path, government funded programs across the board experience budget cuts. While education tends to be among the last to experience cuts, many can’t escape drops in funding from both state and local budgets. Simultaneously, operation costs are rising which leaves even less money for schools to operate on. When faced with daunting bills and dwindling funds, music and arts programs tend to find their way to the chopping block.
What makes these sort of programs disposable? With short resources, cutting programs that aren’t graduation requirements can be a way to avoid teacher lay-offs and keep kids meeting their other educational needs. Many schools still offer some sort of arts programs but in the poorest districts that do experience these cuts, the pick-up has been slow.
Arts programs, whether it’s visual arts, drama or music, have a valuable role in childhood development. Research has shown that these activities have a big role in a child’s mental development. A study published in Journal of Instructional Psychology stated that exposing children to music can increase their spatial reasoning intelligence by 46% – this type of brain function is key for other skills like mathematics. The same study also said that music and art can help improve dyslexia. Furthermore, it gives children who don’t have other healthy outlets a means of self-discovery to explore themselves and find out who they are. Other studies have cited a link between fine arts education to decreased dropout rates, higher scores SAT/ACT and higher academic skills overall.
The budget cuts don’t stop with the arts. Unfortunately, some of the poorest school districts are even cutting gym classes and other physical activity outlets. While 1 in 5 children under the age of 18 is overweight, according to the organization Leadership for Hispanic Communities, the numbers are much higher for Latino children with just over 38% of children obese. For some children, especially in lower income families, gym classes are the only place for children to experience exercise. Their families can’t afford extra-curriculars – which also find themselves on the budget chopping block and are either completely eliminated or become pay-to-play in which the families must pick up the participation costs. Furthermore, outside activity after school for many low income families is also an impossibility as their neighborhoods may not be safe enough for play.
Childhood obesity is more dangerous than adult obesity. Overweight children are much more likely to become obese adults. Health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are much harder to treat in children, and the physical and side effects are much more intense.
While schools need to make budget cuts somewhere, it seems that students are the ones who suffer the most when programs like art and gym are cut. With government programs like No Child Left Behind placing such a high importance on test scores however, it leaves many schools no choice for fear of losing further funding. With mountains of research backing the further success inside – and out – of the classroom of children exposed to the arts, children in low income households have the most to overcome to reach an even developmental playing field.
By Alexandra Morbitzer @FitLatina