Speaking from experience as a former public school music teacher in Newark, New Jersey, I can say that when it comes to inner-city teaching, or ‘Urban Education’, music teachers are subject to more budget cuts and even greater lack of support than they may have in a suburban or rural school district. I also taught in Asbury Park, New Jersey where I was met with the same difficulties. We need music curriculum to teach music but there was none to be found in either place...
Forget trying to find sheet music or textbooks, in both cities I had to find my own desks, rugs, seats and school supplies. Then I had an eye opening experience. After being elected as a State Delegate to New Jersey at the NEA’s National Representative Assembly to Washington D.C., I found that my problem wasn’t unique, my city wasn’t the only one facing budget issues, and as a music teacher, I was not alone.
There were hundreds of music teachers there representing the entire country and ALL had the same complaints. I spent a full day in shock then a second full day writing a proposal for a new piece of legislature. How can we unite and protect music education in the cities whose students need it most? It was welcomed warmly but had opposition as it implied that funding was required so I was forced to take a step back and only write about the importance of our craft to the students.
After negotiating several addendum with other states (namely California, Florida and Pennsylvania), I was given the honor to present it to the Assembly. Once finished, in a moment, the vote was cast. Well over the required two-thirds majority voted in favor of the legislation. And for that moment, I felt like a change was about to happen.
But of course, it wasn’t going to be that easy. (to be continued…)