IMEA recently sent a candidate survey to both candidates for Governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction. Below are responses to the survey from Superintendent Glenda Ritz.
1) Music education provides essential 21st-century skills that are crucial to a student’s future success. What is your view in ensuring students have access to a broad and rich curriculum, which includes music education?
I am a firm believer in the value of a balanced, well-rounded education that includes music as a core academic subject. The research is clear that music facilitates learning and enhances skills that children use in other subject areas. It increases language development and extends beyond the general, choral, orchestral, or band classroom.
I am also a firm believer in the value of STEM education to meet the demands of a 21st century economy, but supporting the arts and supporting STEM is not a conflict. STEM and the arts must work together. That is why I support STEAM. This approach values all subject-areas equally and is rooted in a student’s individual interests that are informed by an evolving economy.
2) Investing in education is crucial to the future health of our country’s economy and workforce. What education programs do you believe we should prioritize, in order to prepare our students for career success?
Many of Indiana’s school districts are facing funding crises, and many of these problems have been exacerbated by two factors. First – constitutional tax caps have harmed local school districts’ abilities to collect property tax revenue. Second – student-based-budgeting, where the money follows the child, has significantly impaired the ability of many school districts to sustain music programs.
That said – the tax caps are here to stay, so we must work together to think creatively of ways to ensure student programs—including music programs—can endure despite lagging property tax revenues.
In the event of a school district’s budgetary crisis, music programs are too often the first to go. This is why I am looking forward to studying other ways the state might fund schools. We must think beyond tax dollars following individual children, and we must fund programs to guarantee course offerings and curriculums.
When ten students leave a rural school district, it could spell the end of a teacher or a music program. But this should not be the case. We must fund programs first to sustain a school’s ability to offer a well-balanced curriculum to students – regardless of their ZIP code.
3) Congress recently passed the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” a landmark piece of legislation, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Do you believe this new law is a positive step forward for our nation’s education systems? Why or why not?
As Superintendent of Public Instruction, I met with Indiana’s congressional delegation on Capitol Hill to push for passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). I believe it is a strong step in the right direction. ESSA gives states much needed flexibility to develop plans that reflect the needs of local schools. While there are some elements of ESSA I consider to be too prescriptive, I was encouraged by the bipartisan efforts to ensure the law focused on support for students, rather than mere compliance.
For music programs, ESSA has taken an even bigger step in the right direction by including the arts in its definition of a well-rounded education. Although the Indiana Department of Education is still awaiting final regulations from the federal government, I am encouraged by the possibilities. But we must now work together to develop our state plan and make it happen.