Northwest Side school cuts back on arts, band

August 21, 2013

Lee Jian Chung

(Flickr/Bart Everson)
A teacher prepares her classroom for the first day of school. Local advocacy group Raise Your Hand reports that 185 arts, performing arts and music teachers in Chicago were laid off in budget cuts last month.

Parents and teachers gathered at a back-to-school rally at John B. Murphy Elementary School Tuesday evening and spoke out against cuts to arts and music.

The Northwest Side elementary school is completely losing its band program, and its full-time dance and drama teaching position becomes part-time. Other cuts include two teachers and a school counselor.

“Our community has a percentage of low-income students,” said Local School Council chairperson and parent Roberta Salas, who said Murphy is losing $600,000 in budget cuts.

“Most of these children will not have the opportunity to go out and get private lessons. Their introduction to the arts is here.”

Salas joined other parents in front of Murphy to rally against those cuts. They sought to bring attention to the need for funding of neighborhood schools while Chicago Public Schools is considering proposals for new charter schools.

In a statement, CPS said, “This year we are seeking high quality charters that can serve communities with over-crowded school populations.”

While the district expects to get proposals, the statement said, “There is no guarantee those proposals will be recommended or approved by (the) board.”

“We can’t even maintain what we’ve already built,” said Sandy Lucas, an arts and music teacher who survived the cuts. “We’re taking a step back. That’s destruction.”

Parent Renee Martinez said Murphy Elementary's dancing, drama and music classes have helped to bring her daughter “out of her shell.”

“That social-emotional development is just so enhanced with the arts that it’s really going to be sorely missed,” Martinez said.

As part of a layoff of more than a thousand teachers at CPS last month, local advocacy group Raise Your Hand reports that 185 arts and music teachers lost their jobs.

A CPS spokesman said the district does not have a breakdown showing the number of laid off teachers in these subjects.

Correction: This story originally misstated that John B. Murphy Elementary School lost its arts and music programs, that it’s a magnet school, and the location of the elementary school. Murphy is a neighborhood magnet cluster school that lost some arts and music programs, and had cuts in others. It’s located on Chicago’s Northwest Side. It's also updated to include a statement from CPS.

Lee Jian Chung is a WBEZ arts and culture intern. Follow him @jclee89.