School district works to keep arts programs

fairmont music
Fairmont High School music class (WDTN PhotoMaytal Levi)

KETTERING, Ohio (WDTN) – Fewer dollars for school districts across the country has meant fewer teachers in classrooms for many districts.

Typically, when there are significant state budget cuts, arts programs like music and physical education are the first to get chopped. However, Kettering City Schools are marching to a different beat. Fairmont High School music teacher, Michael Berning says his classroom won’t be silenced anytime soon.

Berning says he was worried for his colleagues in other school districts, but not for his own job security. “Honestly, I wasn’t concerned. We really value the music and the arts here” explained Berning, Kettering City Schools music administrator.

The district has been recognized as one of the best in music education throughout the country by the NAMM Foundation. The music department serves around 2,000 students from the middle to high school level. Grace Davis has been playing since sixth grade and hopes to teach many generations to come the perfect pitch.

“Music is my life. It’s what I want to do. I want to be in Mr. Berning’s office, where he is sitting right now. For me, it’s my future and that’s extremely important” said Davis, Fairmont High School junior.

The majority of a schools operating budget comes from property tax dollars. Reports indicate the district will lose 4.5 percent of their funding from the state budget cuts next school year.

“We are a locally funded district , the majority of funding comes from our local Kettering community and their continued support allows us to maintain quality music, art, and physical education programs” said Kari Basson, Kettering City Schools, community relations coordinator.

2 NEWS asked Basson about the possibility of raising taxes to make up for the state cuts and was deferred to the district’s treasurer, where we left a message.

Teachers and students agree without the arts, creativity and development would be out of sync.

“It’s really critical that kids get to experience the creativity and the aesthetic effects of being in a music of performance arts class. Whether it’s theater, choir or anything, it makes a well-rounded student in the end” said Berning.

The Ohio Department of Education reports for the last fiscal year (FY 2015), the State of Ohio spent more on primary and secondary education than at any point in state history. For the 2015 fiscal year State General Revenue Fund and Lottery Profit spending for primary and secondary education exceeded FY 2010 funding levels by nearly $1.3 billion, or 17.8 percent.

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