Capitol Update: Rep. Linda Featherston on the importance of music in public schools

Democratic State Rep. Linda Featherston said she's concerned with how tough financial times may impact music, theater and art programs. Above, Featherston in a file photo.

Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Rui Xu, Rep. Linda Featherston and Sen. Cindy Holscher are scheduled to send updates this week.

Below is the submission from Democratic State Rep. Linda Featherston, who represents District 16.

March is Music in Our Schools Month!  As an independent piano teacher who holds a degree in music education, I have always felt a special kinship with school music teachers. It was a school music teacher, who first inspired me to take piano lessons.

Although I’ve always wanted to be a piano teacher, music in school has been a big part of my life. Band gave me a place to develop musical skills, learn to set goals, and gain confidence. High school band provided me the opportunity to work with literally hundreds of other students as a group with the common goal of excellence in performance.

Most of all, music gave me a: career that I love, the ability to attend all of my children’s activities, (I was blessed to have kids in band, choir, orchestra, drill team, and theater all at once!) and the privilege of watching dozens of children grow up during their years of study with me.

As you can imagine, I was excited to see an information session by the Kansas Music Educators Association on the agenda this past week in the Education Committee.

I knew my colleagues would be well received, as I’ve been working on a celebration of the arts in schools at the Capitol for the past month. This initiative has received widespread bi-partisan support, and legislators on both sides of the aisle are scheduled to perform at the celebration this week. Instead, what I saw was another attack on schools by a chair who at best misrepresented what music students and teachers have done this past year.

Attacks like these surround me in Topeka: proposed diverting of public tax dollars to non-public entities, forcing colleges to refund tuition if they go/went online, and grandstanding about schools being required to be physically open by March 26 when, in fact, nearly every district in Kansas has a plan for this already in place.

Tough financial times are already starting to affect one of the districts I represent, as I’ve heard the first musings of possibly needing to alter specials next year. These specials are the music, theater and art programs that your kids love. These specials are the programs that create well rounded citizens who go on to enjoy and support the arts, which helps draw businesses to Johnson County. Perhaps, most importantly, these specials are the thing that give all kinds of kids a place to shine and feel included at school.

As I have said many times, I teach children that are educated in home, private and public schools. I have seen students from all of these settings benefit from the public school safety net, and I will continue to advocate for this safety net for every child regardless of where they are educated. 

It is the honor of a lifetime to represent the people of District 16.  Please feel free to reach out to me anytime at Linda.Featherston@house.ks.gov.