One bad decision isn't necessarily a trend. But the Melba School District's decision to cut music and choir programs in the Canyon County middle and high schools is enough to send chills through all of Idaho.
Once again, education in Idaho takes it on the chin. Gov. Butch Otter and legislators who ordered a 7.5 percent budget cut in public education can hide behind the state's and the nation's current economic downturn. However, even during rosy times, the Republican-controlled state Legislature is hostile to education, as if it were a liberal farm team for the Democratic Party.
Cancelling Melba's music and choir program will save $69,000. For that relatively paltry sum, an important arts-and-culture element in developing well-rounded citizens with a cultural refinement will be silenced. Unless students can find alternate music activities, many will lose their chances at college music scholarships.
The $69,000 savings is the equivalent of a year's average cost to house, guard and feed fewer than three inmates in state prisons at the rate of $26,000 each.
Social research long ago concluded that music instruction for children and adolescents is critical to avoiding the socially disruptive behavior or criminal conduct exhibited by many non-music teens. Music instills discipline, teaches the complex skill of reading music, creates friendships with like-minded students and imbues the human spirit with the inspiring qualities of song and sound.
Will programs in other school districts be sacrificed to balance budgets and silence the sound of music?