License plates can benefit musicians

February 23, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Local residents and musicians are banding together to help save music programming in public schools in the state, but need your help to get started.

Music Aid Northwest, a group who got its start in Issaquah, and the Jam Dawgs are hosting a signature and fundraising event to support music programs in schools. 

The group needs $35,000 and 3,500 signatures to propose a bill to the 2010 state Legislature that will allow them to create a state license plate that supports music.

The program is similar to those for state universities and colleges, where you can purchase a personal license plate for the state fee in addition to a fee of $30-$50 each year, which goes to your alma mater to keep.

The group has raised roughly $12,000 and collected nearly 1,200 signatures.

While Music Aid Northwest wasn’t originally designed to support music education, Issaquah resident David Harris, the city’s music scene coordinator and the nonprofit’s founder, said it is a cause he can get behind, though he is no longer with the group.

“Supporting music education in schools is a really worthy cause,” he said. 

The nonprofit is designed to help build the music scene in the Northwest and has successfully raised money for relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Southeast Asia.

Members of Music Aid Northwest said they see their new endeavor as a way to preserve the very programs that kept them actively engaged in school and that later spurred their careers.

“For me, personally, I got my start in the school’s music program and have made a career off music and technology for way too many years,” said Reek Havok, a member of Music Aid Northwest and coordinator for the license plate program. 

“It’s a great cause, because it benefits the kids,” said Aury Moore, a musician and coordinator for the event. 

In some cases, school districts have reported cutting programs like music, physical education, and even lunch and recess, by 44 percent to keep up with demands for increased reading and mathematics proficiency that No Child Left Behind has mandated, according to a study conducted in 2007 by the Center for Education Policy.

Moore said she’s been disappointed with the lack of music education in classrooms and was a victim of music cuts in high school herself. 

“Compared to my siblings who were able to take a class of music at any one of their seven periods, it was down to three classes a day when I started,” she said. “By the time I graduated, it was almost nonexistent and I was participating in the choir after, or before, school.”

“Especially, as the economic situation we have continues, the first thing cut by schools is the arts programs. So, there is a need now more than ever to support those music classes and those types of educational programs that continually take a beating to keep any sort of funding,” Havok said.

There is a moratorium on applying for new license plates in the state until July, Havok said. But the group has the full support of Brad Owen, the state’s lieutenant governor, and several legislators who will help them apply for the license plates in the 2010 legislative session, he said. 

Once their bill has passed, he said, the organization will begin selling the plates as a way to continuously fund music education programs throughout public schools.

When money begins rolling in from the license plates, 60 percent will go directly to the communities that purchased the license plates. For instance, if a school district decides to do a license plate fundraiser and sells 1,000 license plates and another sells 500, the district that sold the most will proportionally get more money. 

The remaining 40 percent of the money raised from the license plate funds will be reserved for grant allocations, Havok said. 

The Washington Music Educators Association will help dispense and allocate funds, he said.


If you go

Petition signing/fundraising party

7:30 p.m. Feb. 26

Vino Bella

99 Front St. N.

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