It started with a vote. A simple vote over where money would be spent in the small town of Nahant. And somehow, the end result is that the children of Nahant are left without Art and Music. A teacher who has been at the Johnson school for three decades lost her job. And the children of the town are powerless to do anything.
The Nahant override was brought forth because of a combination of factors. A significant cut in state funding that came into the school, and a mandated rise in special education costs. These combined created a large shortfall in the Johnson School budget. In order to fix this, school committee members and local parents got together to propose an override, or an increase in taxes that would occur town wide, and keep the school functioning as it was previously.
Now, before anyone gasps at the idea of raised taxes, the estimated amount that it would cost each family would be $180 for the year. Not bad right? Well, not bad enough to warrant hundreds of kids not receiving education in music or art right? Wrong.
Now before I explain why the override was not passed, according to the 2000 census 18.6% under the age of 18, 4.0% from 18 to 24, 28.0% from 25 to 44, 29.9% from 45 to 64, and 19.4% who were 65 years of age or older. Nahant’s first and third most populated age groups are both over the age of 45. This meant that during the time of the override, Nahant was split into two groups. There were those who were over 45 and for the most part had not children currently living with them, they made up the “No” vote. Those who did have children predominantly sided with the “Yes” group.
The Yes group argued that no matter the cost, kids in the school system deserve to have arts. And on the other side there were those who decided that there were more efficient ways to raise the money other than the override. Others on the opposition simply mentioned that they did not have any children living with them; therefore they felt it did not affect them.
The override eventually got voted down, and the town’s children lost their art and music. As a sailing instructor and the son of a Johnson School teacher, I have been provided insight into what is happening. Two of my students ran a lemonade stand over the summer to raise money to get their classes back. It was heart wrenching.
Now the children in Nahant have to attend the Acorn Gallery in Marblehead or hire private instructors in order to obtain the education that was once a foundation of the curriculum.
I love living in Nahant, but losing art and music for the children is something that is unacceptable, not every child with be a mathematician or engineer on the college prep course. There are those who will become artists, musicians, and actors. Or there will be those with the talent to do any of those things who lose interest simply because it was not presented to them in school.