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People protest cuts to Middlesboro choir, art programs

MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (WYMT) - Dozens of parents, teachers and students in one southern Kentucky school district are making their feelings known regarding certain budget cuts.

A spending plan recently approved by the Middlesboro Independent School Board eliminates the choir program at both the middle school and high school and also cuts one art teacher position.

More than 100 people attended Tuesday's board meeting and many of them spoke against eliminating choir and reducing art education.

"The argument for the arts is simple," Bo Green said. "It improves test scores, increases graduation rates and improves post secondary success...all goals that every school should try to attain."

Band Director Suzanne Lee is worried the band program will eventually suffer because of the cuts.

"No halftime shows at Friday night football games, no more competing against local bands on Saturdays in the fall," Lee said. "No more Christmas programs or parades, basketball pep band or spring humanities programs."

The district's superintendent, Dr. Rita Cook, said the cuts were necessary because of enrollment declines and reductions in state and federal funding.

"When you're not on the board you don't always believe when people say that we're losing funds," Cook said. "But when you get on the board and the reality sort of hits you, then you have to make decisions."

Cook said board members were not happy they had to make the cuts.

"I always say to them, 'You make your choices and think about what's best for students'," Cook said. "And think about positions. Don't think about people. But when you live in a small community that's really hard to do."

But some people said losing choir is even harder.

"There are kids like me who are alive today because of song," said Amanda Roberts, who spoke against the cuts. "And I can't imagine a world where they aren't even given a chance."

School board members Tuesday agreed they would meet sometime in the next two weeks to look for other areas to make the cuts.

But they said the cuts cannot be avoided and will have to be made somewhere.


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