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As I drove into work yesterday morning, I caught a piece from one of my favorite local public radio correspondents, Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, talking about how NYC Mayor Bloomberg just donated a big chunk of money (Yes – ONE million BUCKS) to Coalition for School Reform, a committee to re-elect members of the LAUSD school board favored by our mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.  I haven’t spent enough time exploring who is even running for the school board, although I do know some of the names, and promise I will start doing my research now.

It just struck me as ironic that just the night before my husband, who is the treasurer of our PTA, was revealing to me that we are behind in fund-raising this year. Our recent walk-a-thon didn’t bring in as much money as last year and our realtor sponsors either haven’t sold a lot of homes in the area lately, or they just aren’t giving us the donations they used to. We don’t demand huge annual gifts from our families and the majority of them just don’t have it. Those that do, give, but it isn’t enough to close the gap. Among other things, our PTA pays for our custodian, our PE coach, our Garden Science program, Writer’s Workshop, field trips, technology and the California Dance Institute (CDI) – an amazing non-profit accessible dance program that allows our 3rd-6th graders to participate in a 12-week dance workshop that gets kids moving and grooving to live music, no matter what the level of their dance ability.  I love their mission statement –  “CDI’s mission is to motivate children to develop a personal standard of excellence by instilling confidence, discipline and focus through the rigor and joy of dance.”

All that confidence and joy was on display Wednesday when our school’s CDI program culminated with the kids performing three shows through out the day.   I rushed out of work a few minutes early to make it to the evening show. Our cute little auditorium was filled to standing room-only with family and friends. The kids danced into the room by classrooms, with their distinct colored shirts. Even though it was their third such performance that day, you could feel the kids’ excitement and pride as each one ran across the front of the performance space, leaping and calling out their name, each one a star. I admit I get super-sentimental at these types of performances. I can barely watch a 4th of July parade without getting teary-eyed, even when I don’t know the kids from some high school marching by me. But yesterday I knew and at least recognized so many of the kids performing that my emotional engagement level was upped to a new level. I watched the teachers sitting in the audience with huge beaming smiles of pride on their faces alongside the parents and I got a bit choked up.  It was obvious the time spent away from academics on this program was not wasted and that the precious funds that the PTA allocates to this program are not wasted. My third grader can’t wait to do the program again next year and I pray that we can keep it going for my 6-year-old to be able to take part when she is in 3rd grade.  She already picked up many of the moves from watching her big sister practice at home and it would be a shame if she couldn’t have the experience as well.

CDI does have healthy list of big foundations subsidizing their non-profit organization, whom without, our school could never afford the share of the costs which we are responsible for, so I don’t want to bash all the altruistic millionaires out there that are funding the arts in public schools.  But in a more ideal equitable world, we wouldn’t have to be begging them for more – it would just be a priority that all schools had decent arts programing.

I also know that money talks in politics, that the school board election is important, that there are some people who are are better suited than others to take our school district forward in the right directions. Conserve what is good, reform what is not. But geez, Mr. Bloomberg and all you big donors trying to influence our school board election, couldn’t you have given just a tiny-weeny bit of your millions of dollars directly to our school so these kids can keep on dancing? Well, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

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