Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Turn on the television, flip open the newspaper, or walk down the streets without earphones in your ears, and you will inevitably see, read, or hear about the state of the American economy. Recession, you say? A new policy—why, that sounds great for them. Ah, funding for the schools? Grants? Oh no, they can’t cut the budget.
But recently, that is exactly what has happened. Educational funding has suddenly been swept away, leaving superintendents blinking at the disappearance of what was once the thinning lining of money underneath their busy feet. This sudden move has not only caused a whirlwind of problems for recent programs and activities, but also those of old—namely, previous grants that have not yet been acted upon.
Take, for example, the grant two years ago in which the governor of California bestowed millions of dollars on public schools to help fund and revive stagnant art programs. New Haven Unified School District itself received about $1.25 million. However, there seems to be one problem. Some of the requests placed by these deprived programs to the district never made it through. As a result, the money sat in a figurative account, floating about restlessly in an invisible metal box and shriveling as time passed from the predators of inflation and recession. Each time a person turned towards the money for funding, the dollars leapt, each jump a little weaker than the last. And in some instances, they wilted, blocked by the constant excuses of district authorities that promised freedom but lied. So they lay, waiting.
Now, a question arises.
When required, will the money surface from the Dump of Dead Dollars to sufficiently fund these programs?
The answer would seem to be no. In the space of two years, and especially in the recent months, available funding has dwindled. And while the promise and intentions may still hold, there is a great chance that the money does not exist anymore to back up the grant. With the recent cut on the educational budget, the money has nearly faded from sight.
It is not that the money has been used up completely by previous projects. It is known for certain that a lump of lifeless dollars is still molding in the cellar called an account. What is more, the amount is also known to be sizeable enough to sustain at least one large project. What is confounding is that it has not been used, despite the requests for the money.
So what does that mean for the art programs?
As a member of the James Logan Wind Symphony, I am seeing the direct results (or, rather, lack thereof). In the past days, it has been brought up that new instruments were ordered, with the expectations that if these orders were left in the hands of the district, these undeniably expensive products would show up some day at the front doors of the band room. It has been months, and these instruments are no nearer to us than they were said months ago.
Was it an overly assuming request?
Perhaps. Not every school can afford to buy the music department new instruments just because they have 12 students who require individual instruments that cost thousands of dollars each. But it does not excuse the fact that the consolations from the district have not been followed up by any actions of note. As the wait lengthens, the probability that money will even exist to fund this expenditure will narrow. The band program has awaited these new pieces for a long time; are we to wait only to discover that at the end, no money exists any more to buy them?
The blame does not lie solely on our failing economy. Part of the matter is the reluctance to purchase this costly equipment. At the very least, we know that the money cannot be cut from the art and humanities departments to fund things like the sciences, because the money was designated for art programs alone. That, however, is not enough to relieve the anxious fingernail biting that results from watching the hurtling downfall of educational funding. The money that is still leftover from this grant must be used now before the money sprout legs and run away, disappearing into a cloud of dust.