Los Angeles Unified School District Reverses Decision to Cut Orchestra

Earlier this year, the L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) board members presented a draft arts budget that would have cut full-year music and arts programs to half-year programs. The proposal would also have spread the district’s 32 instrumental music teachers among 320 schools, up from the current 160 schools. It also would have watered down the music and arts offerings by spending $9.8 million on 101 “arts integration” teachers.

As outgoing California Music Educators Association (CMEA) President Russ Sperling—also the 2014-16 NAfME Western Division President-Elect—put it, the proposals were “a step in the wrong direction.”

Thanks to outspoken parents and teachers, however, schools will continue to receive full-year orchestra classes. But a district spokesperson did note that LAUSD is considering how schools are chosen to receive those programs. Because they have staff and instruments to cover just 160 programs, if more than 160 schools apply, LAUSD “will need to resort to a lottery system to allocate instrumental music programs,” according to a memo by Steven McCarthy, LAUSD’s K-12 arts coordinator. This proposal has not been finalized.

Check this list for the names of schools that did lose arts instruction mid-year. The non-profit Adopt the Arts has stepped in to help fulfill needs in the L.A. Unified School District.

Parents are still concerned about the fate of their music programs. Karen Wolfe, who has attended the school board meetings regularly, said, “I’m really concerned about the direction that arts might be headed in the school district.”

The CMEA has been active in advocating for funding and providing teachers and parents useful advocacy tools. Their latest initiative is Stand Up for Music, CMEA’s music advocacy website. The CMEA Advocacy Day 2014 at the State Capitol will take place May 22 in Sacramento.

View CMEA President Michael Stone’s presentation on Stand Up for Music’s 2014 Priorities:


Mary Plummer, “After teacher, parent complaints, LA school leaders abandon plan to cut orchestra classes,” KPCC Southern California Public Radio, 18 April 2014.

NAfME Stands Behind California MEA in Response to LAUSD Cuts,” National Association for Music Education, 28 February 2014.

Calling all NAfME Collegiate Members: Register TODAY to attend NAfME’s 2015 Hill Day June 24-26! Find more advocacy resources at the Broader Minded website.

Catherina Hurlburt, Special Assistant, April 22, 2014. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)