Over the last handful of years, the economy has taken its toll on our society, and specifically our schooling systems. Seeing budgets cuts to education have become something of the norm these days.
Veteran teachers and vital school programs are being thrown to the waste side, all while this potentially places a burden on local taxpayers as they take the hit. Most recently Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced plans to heavily cut funding of local schools and four-year colleges by a wide margin. As far as K-12 schools are concerned, Corbett’s plan would slash about $1.5 billion in education sector cuts.
While teachers, parents and students wonder how these drastic reductions will affect their programs, residents of Lower Moreland Township need not to worry.
Not only is the school district thriving in these times, but the music program – a suject that is always in talks of being cut at other area schools – was honored by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) as one of 7 top schools in the country for ‘A Best Community for Music Education.’
The California-based organization nationally recognized individual schools for the first time this year in addition to the 179 communities that were honored. The other schools were:
- Atlanta International School (Georgia)
- Brooklyn Center Junior Senior High School (Minnesota)
- Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School (New York)
- Sayville High School (New York)
- Waubonsie Valley High School (Illinois)
- Westlake Christian Academy (Illinois)
“I felt incredibly proud of the entire program, of all the kids in the community,” Erin Stroup said, who has been the head of the LM music department for the last 10 years.
Stroup has been a music teacher in the district for the last 14 years and he’s never been forced to compromise his program because of proposed budget cuts.
“No, not that I know of,” Stroup said of possible slashes to the music program. “I think the administration here and the school board, especially, provided a climate that’s allowed us to be very successful.
“They provide a climate for students to be successful, but they also provide a climate for teachers to do what they do best,” he added. “They hire the best teachers, and let them do what they do best. It’s not luck that the students are good, they have great teachers and leaders. They are great role models.”
Stroup has seen the music program grow exponentially each year. What started as seven kids wanting to learn how to play an instrument has turned into a nationally recognized curriculum in which nearly 50-percent of the students are involved in.
There’s something for everyone at Lower Moreland who wants to be involved in music. LM recently had its Spring Concert, but that’s just one aspect of the course to go along with concert band, symphonic band, winter ensemble, jazz ensemble and a pep band.
“There sheer numbers have grown exponentially,” Stroup said. “That’s an easy thing to look at. From having 7 kids, to having 200 just in the band program alone, the whole program has grown. The band program has always been thriving at the middle school. The orchestra program and the choir program are growing in numbers exponentially. But more importantly, the quality has been increasing specifically over the last seven years.”
Budget cuts and the endangerment of music programs were the primary reasons that NAMM decided to recognize individual schools this year.
“Considering how hard communities are fighting to maintain school music programs, earning a designation this year has become more relevant than ever. We are proud to acknowledge these districts and schools and grateful for their commitment to a complete education that includes music,” said Mary Luehrsen, executive director of the NAMM Foundation. “Never has the evidence been more compelling: there is a direct correlation between music education and success in other areas of a student’s life. It is therefore crucial to continue funding music and arts education.”
Under Corbett’s cuts, K-12 schools would see an $810 million slash; this includes cutting $550 million for instruction costs from these schools.
Speaking with Stroup, he seems to share those same thoughts.
“It’s devastating,” Stroup said. “There are hundreds of studies that show the importance of music from starting at an early age. The school district, such as ours, understands the importance of that. There’s definitely a positive correlation between how well our students do academically and how well our music programs are.”
The Lower Moreland Boosters Club would like to send a special thanks to Stroup, Mrs. Jessica Swillo, Mrs. Sarah Gulish, Mr. Charles Hutchings, Mr. David Champion, Mrs. Amanda Handfinger, and Mrs. Hillary Eisenman for all of their tireless efforts to make the music program what it is today.
“What we did here is absolutely phenomenal if you look at percentage of students involved in our music program," Stroup said. "We are up to 700 now in the high school and almost half of the students are involved in one way in the performing arts program is just phenomenal.”