Friday, April 20, 2012

MCPS Music Classes are Pay to Play?

Even though public school in Maryland is free under the Constitution, look what is being used to get people to buy tickets to a concert:  
...Remember when you wanted to learn to play rock and roll, but only were offered trumpet, clarinet, or violin? Today, rock and roll classes are everywhere! But if you want to play, you have to pay.
Rock-in Schools is a group of Montgomery County Public School music teachers promoting free access to a complete music education for all include both traditional and contemporary genres...
Who is forcing students to "pay to play" in music classes in Montgomery County Public Schools?  


  1. Umm.... I don't think anyone is forcing at least elementary music students in MCPS to pay to play. I've taught music in MCPS from Head Start through high school, instrumental and vocal/general, and I've never seen any MCPS policy requiring payment to play.

    I can't tell for sure from the sparse information given here, but I'm guessing the blurb is referring to classes offered outside MCPS - and of course as those are privately operated they're privately paid for. If rock and roll classes ARE offered in MCPS - many schools already have guitar class offered, for example - that's another story.

    1. According to the website this is coming from a "coalition of schools". It is not a private program. They talk about curriculum in the public schools.

    2. @ Deb - To be clear, charging students for anything related to the curriculum is illegal in Maryland. When students are charged a fee for something related to their curriculum, those fees have not been set by the Board of Education and have not been set by the legislature. That is why there is no uniformity in what is charged (if anything) from school to school. Some schools do not charge their students to attend public school classes, some charge for many things.

    3. Janis, I don't see anything on their website that says MCPS students have to pay to play in MCPS programs. It looks like the Fillmore concert is a fundraiser to buy instruments so students CAN participate fee-free, the way many PTA's buy band and orchestra instruments for schools to fill the (HUGE) gap left by inadequate MCPS funding in those areas.

      Currently, though, for programs like Bach to Rock which ARE privately-run, well, those you have to pay for. I got the impression that's what their blurb was referring to, unless they aren't mentioning fees for their own programs.

  2. @ Deb,

    Your questions speak to transparency of this event. The event organizers are using the names of MCPS schools.

    But where will the money raised actually go? Who is collecting the money? [Insert legal entity name here] And who will the checks be written to after the event? [Insert legal entity name here.]

    If the money goes to the schools then it goes in to the local schools IAF account. Those accounts are controlled by the principal. The principal can then use those funds to purchase anything for the school. PTAs have run in to this before. Money donated to an IAF account can be used at the discretion of the principal. That use may or may not be what was intended by the donation.

    The website and ticket sales site for this event are extremely vague. What is clear is that the message is that students have to "pay to play" for music education.

  3. Let's be clear as to what the original letter refers. MCPS does not offer beginning instruction in instrumental pop music, so if kids want that kind of experience they have to go to private companies like School of Rock, which do charge a fee for their services.

    This group of teachers wants to raise seed money for beginning pop music instruction in MCPS, so that kids can have no-cost access to programs like School of Rock through their own schools (which is both a novel and controversial idea in my opinion).

    Any child who wants to go through the traditional instrumental music in MCPS is able to do so for no cost. The county has a supply of instruments and instructional materials for any students who need them.

    Did you try to contact the teachers who are running this event and ask for clarification before you posted this? It seems that would be the prudent thing to do...

    1. @Peter
      There is no contact information on the ticket site. What makes you think there are "teachers" running this event?
      Calls to the Fillmore for information have not been returned.

      The details you are stating are not mentioned on the ticket site.

      Are you saying that you think this money is going to fund an after school program where students attend a private School of Rock class, or are you saying that School of Rock will be contracted to come into the public schools and teach music during the school day?

      It's really not clear what is going on here and the ticket site gives just what we posted. Bottom line, it's not clear where this money is going or how it will be used or even who is in charge.

      MCPS classes are not funded through "seed money". If they were, you can be sure some PTAs would have been all over that years ago. Was this funding need brought before the Board of Education? They decide how Operating Budget funds are spent and what curriculum is used in music classes.
      Has this request gone to the County Council?

      MCPS teachers have seats at the secret MCPS budget table. Their requests are brought to that table by their union representatives. What have the union reps at the secret MCPS budget table said about this project?

  4. @Janis, you seem to ask lots of questions while having no apparent ability to find answers. You use your questions as accusations. On the site of the rock in group it clearly states that their goal is FREE music education, free to the students. As no one can afford to work for free, it seems that the other event at the Fillmore was a fundraiser. It would be very easy to contact the schools on the list at their site and ask about the cost of the program to students. I see nothing sinister in what you have presented. I am suspicious of your lack of actual proof that students have to pay anything. I also see the use of "pay to play" as being tongue in cheek. If you are going to make accusations then you should back them up with something resembling proof.

    1. You are correct. There is no way to find answers when there is no contact information.

      What site of what "rock group"?

      Public education in Maryland IS free! How much freer can it get?

      What schools on what list and what contact person?

      "To play, you have to pay" were the words on the LiveNation ticket site. So the sponsors are tongue in cheek?

      Lots of talking in circles, but no facts to explain who is sponsoring this event or where the money is going.

      Really simple questions:
      Who are the sponsors of this event?
      What is the name of the entity?
      Who will LiveNation make the check out to for the proceeds of this event?
      Who/what will be the beneficiary of the proceeds? [Name of entity that will get proceeds.]

  5. Janis,

    You have the website for the group in your response to Deb at 5:02am. The website has answers to many of the questions you've been asking and even has a contact info page. Have you even attempted to contact the folks who run that website and ask them these questions?

    You're not going to find these details on the ticket site because it's not the job of the Fillmore or LiveNation to provide that information. They are hosting the event and their job is to sell tickets.

    As a MCPS music teacher who has tried to bring our concerns to MCPS/union leadership, the response is usually "your constituency (i.e. the number of MCPS music teachers) is too small for us to worry about your concerns." That's why you see teachers like the ones organizing this concert taking matters into their own hands.

    Again, go to the website that YOU posted the link to, and do a little research rather than throwing these questions on this website, where they will never get answered. And recognize that, while they may not know how to do things "by the book" that this is a group of good-hearted people who are trying to do good things for our students!

    1. Checked website. No details on who this group is, or where money raised would actually go.

      But the very interesting thing is that according to Peter (above comment) the TEACHER'S union - told teachers, classroom teachers, that they didn't have a legitimate budget request because they were "too small" a constituency for them to worry about?

      What's wrong with your union? Because what you are now saying is that the teacher's union has a seat at the secret budget table, BUT, the union won't even entertain a budget request from CLASSROOM TEACHERS. Wow. Are you getting hosed, or what?

      So now you are going to go to the public and tell them to double pay. Pay taxes once, and then pay again to put music education in public schools because the teachers' union won't advocate for this funding - even though the teacher's union has a SEAT at the secret MCPS budget table!

      Exactly WHAT are the union reps doing at those secret budget meetings if they aren't representing the interests of the front-line classroom teachers?

      What's wrong with the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA aka APPLE BALLOT) that they won't represent their own classroom teachers in a legitimate budget request?

      And, finally, TEACHERS what in the world is going on that you would take no for an answer from YOUR union? They represent YOU. When they don't do their job, why don't you boot those officers out of office?

      Here the public is voting for the Apple Ballot "teacher's picks" for elected office because we are told that is what teachers' want. And the teacher's union's own officers aren't representing the needs of the CLASSROOM TEACHERS.

      Maybe it's time to move the preparation of the MCPS Operating Budget BACK to the PUBLIC Board of Education table so the public AND the classroom teachers can see what budget decisions are really being made?

      Classroom teachers, is the preparation of the MCPS Operating Budget in SECRET really working for you?

  6. One of the involved teachers has an after school rock band club, I believe there's no fee for it, a grant was acquired when the club started about 2 years ago to purchase rock band instruments and amps so kids who didn't have guitars, drums, etc could learn and be in the bands. Another teacher created a rock band class at their part because traditional band and orchestras don't appeal to many kids. Part of this teacher's goals is to keep kids engaged in school via music. I believe this same teacher is developing curriculum for use throughout MCPS... A good portion of the rock band class looks at the history and social influences in pop music.

    This concert is about raising funds so other schools can buy instruments needed for a rock band class, so that a child who can't afford to buy a keyboard or guitar can still have music as part of their education...for FREE. Private rock band camps, Bach to Rock are very expensive for many families. Budgets for all the arts are being cut all the time, I don't see the problem with this concert. I suspect many ticket buyers will be families of students at the participating schools and of the organizing teachers, students whose love of music is due in large part because of these teachers and who want to help other students have access to another choice of FREE music education.

    1. Budgets for the Arts are being cut because classroom teachers are letting the budget deals be cut in secret.

      Your choice.

      If teachers would rather fund dinners and travel for administrators than musical instruments for students, that's their choice.

      But don't use your choices to tell the public the budget has been "cut".

      And again, the "explanation" for this fundraising event has no details. What "other schools" and for "what" at those other schools? Where will money actually go?

      Must be a big mystery if no one can figure out who is in charge of this event and where the money will go.

  7. Janis: Again, have you attempted to contact the people in charge, via their website, and ask them for more info? Or will you continue to promulgate the lie that "no information is available," simply because you won't take the time to do the responsible thing and investigate what you're reporting before you report it?

    I would also like you to respond to my comments rather than revert back to your same, tired "MCPS secret budget table" rhetoric.

    Are we getting hosed? Absolutely. Thanks for pointing out the obvious. Do I like it? Absolutely not. Am I taking "no" for an answer? Again, absolutely not, and I take offense to your (again unfounded) accusation that I am. I'm certainly not happy with everything that MCPS and MCEA do, and how they do it. I feel like I'm doing as much as I can to work the system in my favor. But if you have any constructive suggestions about what more I can do I'll certainly listen.

    And telling me to boot the current officers out of office isn't a constructive suggestion. Elections are held once per year, at most. I can't just go down to MCEA tomorrow and tell the current officers to go away.

    Also, no one has said anything about paying double for music education in the schools. Music education IS in the schools. This group is rasing money expand the scope of instrumental music education in the schools and make it attractive to more students, since it is currently an elective subject at all levels.

    Can you please explain why you have such a problem with these teachers are trying to do for the students of MCPS? Why can't you use your energy to help this cause rather than critcize their methods or use it as a way to push your personal agenda?

    1. Why should any member of the public have to investigate how funds raised in the name of public education will be used? Why is this such a secret?

      Tired of the MCPS secret budget table? Then do something about it.
      Elect MCEA Officers that will ABIDE BY MARYLAND STATE LAW and not participate in secret budget discussions that leave front-line classroom teachers out of the discussion. It's called democracy. Why not try it and see how it works?

      What teachers? What are they "trying" to do? Somehow not disclosing to the public what is going on and where the money is going is supposed to be acceptable.

      Name of entity collecting money: ?

      Where checks will be written from proceeds of event: ?

      Here's the big question: Why is $2.1 BILLION not enough to provide free public education to all of the public school children of Montgomery County?

  8. For any one else who would like to learn more or who have questions to ask...


    1. A phone number and e-mail address have been added to this website.

      Still no name of the legal entity that is receiving the proceeds from the LiveNation ticked event.

      Legal name of organization should be posted on the information about this fundraiser. That's called transparency.

      Legal name of organization:???
      (for profit or non-profit?)

      Name of organization/group/govt entity where proceeds of this event will be sent: ???

    2. Hi Janis,
      I am one of the parent volunteers that is working on the Rock-in Schools initiative. My son was lucky enough to be able to participate in a rock and roll program in Middle School that has changed his life. Music will be a part of his life forever because of a rock band class and after school program that his music teacher created. Rock-in Schools is just group of parent volunteers and one volunteer music teacher (the teacher my son had in Middle School) that want to allow all kids in Montgomery County to have access to this incredible opportunity. We only have good intentions of helping more students be able to play music at school, for free. The pay to play that is referenced in our materials is just that, rock and roll programs where kids have to pay for lessons. We want Montgomery County schools to offer similar programs to kids for free. But music teachers need instruments and music to be able to do that. That is what our non-profit organization will provide with the proceeds from the concert. The money will go to the Montgomery County Community Foundation Rock-in Schools account and 100% of it will be distributed to our pilot schools.
      We are all new at this and we know we have a lot to learn. None of us have created a non-profit before, we are just a group of parents dedicated to helping more kids have the awesome experience our kids did. We're doing our best, but we definately welcome suggestions on how to make our materials more clear and transparent. Missy

    3. "Montgomery County Community Foundation"

      No such organization found in Maryland records for charities.

      What is the legal name of this organization that is listed under in the Maryland Charity database?

      One more time, what is the legal name of the organization that is collecting the money from this event.

      Easy question.

  9. We just found music classroom funding for 50 electric guitars in the MCPS Operating Budget.

    Clearly, the problem is not the budget but the people who decide that conferences for administrators and BOE members are more important than classrooms.

    Who are the people making that decision? The teachers' own union officers.

  10. Way to "Fox-ify" your comments Janis. Talk about over-simplification. Yeah, sure, they go over each and every line item of a $2 billion budget at the "secret" (as YOU love to term it) budget table.

    The educated populace of Montgomery County knows that the budgeting process is a LOT more complex than you would lead one to believe. Foxification doesn't fly here.

    1. This is a good example of spam. This "person" is attempting to tell Montgomery County citizens that MCPS does not know where all of the money in the budget goes. They are attempting to say that the secret budget committee does not go over the budget line by line. That, of course, is an odd statement as the secret budget committee meets in secret and does not release minutes.

      Then the "person" says that the budget process is a "lot" more complex. Wait - the secret budget committee doesn't go over the budget line by line, but they do something more "complex"?

      Anyway, the secret budget committee has been touted by Superintendent Jerry Weast, Superintendent Joshua Starr, MCEA President Doug Prouty and lauded at a national convention in Colorado. The fact that MCEA aka Apple Ballot, prepares the MCPS Operating Budget in secret meetings with MCPS is a well known fact. It is a fact that brings praise to MCPS.

      But, apparently that secret process is doing in the classroom teachers who can't get funding for their projects.

      If it's not working, then who is supporting the secret budget process?

  11. @Anonymous Apr 22 12:23 PM, would this be the same 'educated' populace from which, in the primary election, 80% of the registered voters chose not to vote? Just askin'.


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