'Tis the Season. Budget Season.

Tis the season. Budget season. With all the advocacy campaigns we have launched in recent weeks, I think it's safe to assume that anyone reading this blog has probably taken action on one of our recent campaigns, whether it be for your school district, municipality, or the County. Thanks to your efforts, we have made quite an impact so far, but we still have far to go as school boards, city councils, and the Board of Supervisors hammer out their budgets for the next fiscal year.

I want to start by saying that successful advocacy doesn't mean we'll always win. In times like these, we have to understand that even when we do our best and share our message far and wide, it still may not be enough to overcome our dismal fiscal reality.   But we persevere. We put our best thinking forward, we mobilize our friends and neighbors and we let our decision makers know what's important to us. The arts ed advocacy teams have been doing just that, and have been doing a stellar job at it. I'll share a few highlights.

In late February, the Burbank team learned that both their 2 elementary music teachers and their Arts Coordinator were on the proposed cut list for next year, and that the proposal would be voted on the following week.  The team quickly mobilized to draft a letter to the school board and distribute it widely.  Within 3 days the team generated over 100 letters!  Team members also worked to collect letters from key arts partners in Burbank to deliver to the board at the meeting.  The board made it clear that they got our message and would do all they could to continue supporting the arts.

At the board meeting on March 4th, the advocacy team had a strong showing of supporters, so much so that when one of our presenters asked the art supporters to stand, the whole room stood up!  It was an emotional night of public testimony on many important issues, and at the end, the board expressed their understanding and assured the room that they are doing everything they can.  When our item came up, they voted unanimously to remove the Arts Coordinator from the proposed cut list, but unfortunately the elementary music teachers remain for now.  We have more work to do.

Santa Monica-Malibu is faced with a similar situation.  Their 10 elementary music teaching positions are slated for elimination.  The advocacy team has so far generated over 200 letters to the board, prompting the Board President to contact the team co-chairs personally to congratulate them on a well-executed effort.  If you live or work in Santa Monica or Malibu and haven't writter a letter yet, click here.

Speakers from the advocacy team and community have attended the last two SMMUSD board meetings voicing their support for the elementary music program, but the proposed cuts remain for now. Santa Monica-Malibu's greatest chance to turn this around is to pass Measure A, a local school funding measure being voted on in a mail-in election in May.  The Santa Monica-Malibu Arts Ed Advocacy Team formally endorsed the campaign at their last meeting in late February and will be working to mobilize voters.

To learn more about mobilizing efforts in LAUSD, check out the guest blog by LAUSD parent Cynthia Willman here. If you live or work in LAUSD and haven't sent a letter to the LAUSD Board yet, please click here.

The season is not over, and though we fully understand the daunting nature of the decisions ahead, the steadfast commitment and enthusiastic participation that these advocates have demonstrated over the last few weeks give me hope that arts education in LA County will continue to thrive in 2010-11.

Stay tuned.