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School Music Programs Receive Financial Help; Courts Threaten Shut-Down
Sixteen area schools have received the first of two contributions to their music programs from the SMART Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports “music education for all children.” The schools received almost $16,000 as supplemental funding in January, with a second contribution planned for this coming June.
In addition, the SMART Foundation also provides instruments at reduced rates for qualified students. Under its GI/FT (Grant Instruments/Funding Talent) program, the Foundation reduces its rental fee according to financial need. Support from this program comes primarily from individual donations.
Recently, however, a new threat is rising for school music programs. In a recent ruling (Jane Doe v. State of California), schools that require fees or equipment provided by the parents are in violation of California law promising a “free” education. This ruling could threaten a music program in which parents must rent instruments for their children to participate. With this ruling, it is absolutely imperative that our community support the availability of music education for every child. “A $20,000 donation to the SMART FOUNDATION would provide 100 students with access to a musical instrument each year, states Chris. “With a lifespan of up to fifteen years, these instruments would potentially provide 1,500 students with training that results in increased creative and innovative skill sets, and start them on a path of success and significance.”
The SMART Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is also supported by business organizations such as the Boeing Corporation, the CPA firm of Haskell & White, and the Rutan & Tucker law firm to create a self sustaining model that grows and restarts music programs in line with national standards. It has also created a unique combination of music education support initiatives and an instrument rental plan that provides ongoing contributions to the schools.
The SMART Foundation has successfully run its programs since 1999, when parent and former music dealer, Chris Clark, saw the need for a non-profit model when his children’s school was forced to cut back on music and arts classes. “Advocacy for music education was really at a standstill when the first cuts came down,” said Clark. “We saw that, while advocacy was building, there was real need for some temporary funding so that the programs could continue. State law prohibits private enterprises from funding teacher salaries but, through the PTA and Educational Foundation, there was an opportunity to provide assistance and support the programs in a significant way.”
Chris Clark is the Founder and CEO of the SMART Foundation. SMART stands for Support Music & Arts and as a for-benefit organization their goal is to make sure music and arts remains a part of our children’s education. Chris is a professional trombone player and music educator. As a business man he owned a musical instrument rep firm and two music stores before starting SMART in 1999 and is a member of Convene. He attends Saddleback Church where he has served in the music ministry for 21 years, developed the Saddleback Academy of Music and serves as a church counselor. Chris has a loving wife of 21 years and two beautiful teenage daughters.