Letter to the Editor

In the Eastern Echo Jan. 5 issue, Opinions Editor Jennifer Kirby wrote a great column espousing the benefits of art programs in schools and why they are worth keeping. (See page 6, Art programs worth keeping in Michigan schools.)

She explained about the Zeeland, Mich. middle school teacher who has started the “100 Tables Project.” Her students created mosaic side-tables that are then being auctioned off to raise money for district students in need. It’s considered a student community service project that has a significant impact on those in need in comparison to previous projects.

I found this article interesting because I have a side table that I have begun preparing in order to do a mosaic on it and also because the article’s main topic is one near and dear to my heart.

I grew up in the early 1970’s in So. California. When I entered elementary school my district had already cut art funding from the budget. I remember because my elementary school principal was a displaced art teacher. One afternoon he came into my class to substitute and he did a drawing lesson which was one of the highlights of my elementary education.

I moved to Ann Arbor in 1998 and my kids attended Dexter Community Schools. Some Dexter parents have started an “Arts Booster Club” to raise money for arts classes. One mom, a photographer for the Dexter Leader newspaper, helped to create a yearly calendar displaying student art projects. That calendar is sold around town with proceeds going to art education in the district. I love the pro-active community that ensures their desired education is kept in the schools when the government-funded budget won’t stretch that far.

At the end of Ms. Kirby’s column she states, “…art students refurbishing and selling items is a great incentive to keep these art programs alive in the time of budget changes.” I wholeheartedly agree with her and also the statement, “Michigan art teachers should all look into including a way to help their communities through art.” However, I think the funds raised should go directly into the art programs. What is wrong with art students earning the money to pay for their art classes? I looked up Mosaic Tables Project online and found out students in other classes are also involved in budgeting, marketing and accounting. What a great experience for all the kids.

I’m sure someone in the education industry would say that it is not “kosher” for students to have to pay for their schooling. I remember my priest being hesitant to let my 8th grade religion students hold a bake sale to raise money for a TV and VCR/DVD player for the classes to use; he was worried about public perception since we weren’t donating the money to others. I just don’t get that.

Schools and churches are organizations that are dependent on the charity of others; I think everyone knows it. Why would anyone have a problem with supporting students who are taking a stand and actively working towards keeping their desired classes in schools? I wish I’d been given the option when I was in school; I’d have been behind the effort 100%.

What made me think of all this was a flyer in the Sherzer building for a fundraiser that the EMU Military Science Department is holding. 20 percent of all purchases made on Jan. 29 by people with the coupon from the flyer will go to EMU Military Science. I remember my kids had a similar pizza restaurant fundraiser at their Catholic School in Lansing where students worked as hosts/hostesses for a few hours in the evening and a percentage of the proceeds for that evening went to the school. I thought it was a great fundraiser that wasn’t too onerous for parents to manage -- you have to eat dinner, right? -- and taught the kids some work ethic while also raising money for the school. Why can’t more public schools do something like this on a regular basis to help stretch their budgets?

Ms. Kirby says, “If more art programs across the state were involved in projects such as this, Michigan school districts might be less inclined to make changes to their art programs.” That may be true – but when there aren't enough money to go around, they are forced to make hard decisions. I think if I were a school board member tasked with setting a balanced budget, I’d be more inclined to think of how to keep art education alive in the schools if I saw students and instructors weren’t afraid to put their time and energy behind it.


Marianne McCreight

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