A music instructor who has worked 24 years with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is seeing history repeat itself as the board once again proposes cuts to itinerant music programs in elementary schools – this time as a result of cuts to education funding by the Ford government. 
In a delegation at today’s special meeting of the TDSB’s Finance, Budget and Enrolment Committee, itinerant music instructor (IMI) David Spek will appeal to the TDSB’s budget committee to rescind its recommendation to cut itinerant music programs from the 2019-20 school year.
Protecting the programs is the only way to pass on the enormous benefits of music instruction in TDSB schools, he contends.
The programs at risk of cancellation include vocal, recorder and Orff music education. Other programs, such as band, strings and steel pan, will suffer serious and severe cuts.
These programs are taught by itinerant music instructors, skilled instrumental musicians who travel from school to school, providing specialized instrumental music education to thousands of children each week.
“These longstanding music programs are highly valued by students and parents for the positive and lifelong benefits they bring to our children,” said Spek, who is also a member of CUPE 4400, which represents approximately 12,000 education workers, including 104 IMIs, at the board.
TDSB’s proposed budget recommends a 24% reduction in funding for the hours of education workers.
Studies have shown conclusively that music enhances student achievement across multiple subjects, noted Spek, adding that the “elimination and reduction of the elementary itinerant program will also have far-reaching consequences for high school music programs. Students will no longer arrive in high school having had exposure to music at the early-years level. It means they will then be less likely to make music one of their electives in high school.”
Similar cuts to elementary music programs were proposed in 2013, when there was a shortfall in education funding. But TDSB trustees reversed those cuts in the face of overwhelming opposition from parents, students and other supporters, including a petition of over 10,000 signatures.
On behalf of students, parents and his fellow IMIs, Spek will urge the board to put students first and commit to ensuring that music programs remain valued, important and accessible in TDSB schools.
“Student engagement and achievement are bolstered by music instruction. We are calling on TDSB protect the good it does, even if that means standing up to the Ford government and refusing to implement cuts,” said Spek.