Monday, November 22, 2010

VISTA: Teachers look for ways to pay for music classes

Educators hope to raise $400,000 to keep program going

A group of music teachers in the Vista Unified School District is working to raise money so it can save music classes at the district's 17 elementary schools.

The school board voted in March to cancel the program at the end of the school year if no additional funding could be found..

The seven teachers must raise about $400,000 to pay for their salaries and benefits next year so the program can continue, said Susan Stuber, one of the teachers.
To do this, they have formed a committee of parents and educators, which has teamed up with the Vista Education Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money to help pay for programs and computers at the
district's campuses.

The committee hopes to ask parents and businesses to donate to the effort and to host fundraising events to benefit the music program.

A business can also sponsor music for an entire school for $32,000, which will get its name on banners in front of district campuses acknowledging the donation. The public can make tax-deductible donations on the committee's website,

So far, the committee has raised only a few hundred dollars, but the major fundraising hasn't really begun, said Amy Williams, president of the Vista Education Foundation.

The teachers started asking parents for donations last month at Bobier and Grapevine elementary schools. They plan to include the rest of the district's elementary schools soon.

Early next year, they hope to start planning benefit concerts and other events to raise the rest of the money, Stuber said.

"We're just trying to leave no stone unturned," she said.

Stuber said she thinks it's ridiculous that teachers should have to go out and get money to pay for their programs. Still, she said that she thinks music is important enough to persuade her to lead the charge.

"There's no other way," she said. "These kids will not get music if I don't step outside of my comfort zone and try to raise money."

Trustee Elizabeth Jaka agreed, but said the extra work and money probably will be needed until the California economy turns around and lawmakers increase education budgets.

"I hate that teachers and people in our community have to go out and try to secure funds for a program that's so important," she said. "It's sad and scary."

For the last three years, students in kindergarten through fifth grade have gotten 30-minute music lessons once every three weeks.

Having music lessons for younger children helps them to understand the world and to excel in other subjects, Williams said.

"Music helps strengthen math skills and helps build the brain," she said. "It just makes a child's brain work a little bit better."

The Vista Unified school board decided in January to cancel the elementary music classes starting this year, as part of $15 million in spending cuts. However, the board changed its mind two months later, after parents and teachers pleaded with them to keep the program for at least another year.

Vista Unified officials have said they don't expect the financial situation to improve for years. This year, the district expects to spend $190 million, down from $214 million last year.

Call staff writer Stacy Brandt at 760-901-4009 760-901-4009 .

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