Government shutdown ends


On Jan. 25, President Trump and Congressional leaders were able to reach a deal which would reopen the government temporarily, ending the shutdown. The shutdown started on Dec. 22, 2018, when a new budget had not been approved by Trump because it did not include a budget for the border wall which would cost over $5 billion.

On Jan. 8, President Trump threatened to declare a national emergency as a way to get the funding for the wall. The construction of the wall would be 234 miles along the border between the United States and Mexico as a security measure.

Democrats believe that money could be spent in better ways in regard to national security. Rather than going towards the wall, they suggest measures such as screenings and hiring more agents.

A government shutdown occurs when a budget cannot be agreed on, so the lack of funding causes the non-critical parts of the government to partially or fully close including museums, like the Smithsonian, national parks and environmental and food inspection agencies.

As of Jan. 12, this became the longest shutdown in United State’s history and lasted for a total of 35 days. The previous longest was 22 days starting in December 1995 under President Bill Clinton. This is the second major shut down under President Trump. The first occurred for three days in January 2018 when there was discussion over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act.

There were 380,000 non-critical employees from nine of the 15 major agencies that were not working during this time, and 420,000 employees were still going to work without any pay.

On Jan. 11, however, Congress passed a bill to reimburse federal employees for lost wages, but this bill did not include anything for contract workers. It is estimated based on data from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that the partial shutdown would cost $86 million a day.

With the closure, there was a risk that March food stamps could be cut as well as other delays when companies were not able to verify a worker’s immigration status and rental assistance for the elderly and disabled.

Some essential programs and services were not stopped during the partial shutdown. The US Postal service continued running during the shutdown because they receive their funding independently.

Also, food stamps were continued throughout the shutdown, even though they could have run out of funding. Another example is border control which continued throughout the shutdown even though they will have to receive back pay.

The shutdown has cost the government greatly in the month it was closed. While the full figures may not be seen for a while, the Congressional Budget Office said it reduced gross domestic product by $11 billion in just the first two weeks. Additionally, the national parks suffered the loss of destroyed natural resources that could take 300 years to replace and $400,000 a day in fees.

Despite there being an agreement reached, it is only temporary. The government now has until Feb. 15 to approve another budget that includes border security, or it will close once again. However, this time, employees would still be able to receive full back pay. This would increase the costs already caused by the government shutdown that just ended.

Students travel to music conference


The Michigan Music Conference (MMC) is an annual conference for music educators and those who plan to become educators that takes place in Grand Rapids, MI every year.

On Jan. 24, the college sent six students and four faculty members to the conference. “I’ve been attending MMC, and its predecessor The Midwest Music Conference, each January for 40 years. The Alma Choir has sung at the conference three times –most recently about eight years ago in a collaborative concert with the Alma College Percussion Ensemble,” said Professor Will Nichols, Director of Choirs.

“This was my fourth year attending the conference. It is really beneficial for networking purposes. You get to see old teachers of yours, who then introduce you to other teachers they are friends with. Because of this, I was able to meet some of the teachers from the district I will be student teaching in next fall,” said Em Witteveen (’19).

“This is my third year attending the conference. MMC really allows students to make professional connections that will benefit us in our careers. On top of that, we get to attend different professional development sessions which help us gain knowledge in our specific musical discipline,” said Zach Everly (’21).

The conference is not only for the purposes of meeting other teachers, however. Also offered are several workshops and classes. “You can learn anything from how to fix a brass instrument to how to integrate students with special needs into your other classes to how to run a school musical. The sessions are only 45 minutes long so it can be hard to get a lot of information, but they give you a ton of great resources and contacts with really smart people,” said Witteveen.

Professor Nichols also said, “I think it is important for Music Education majors to know that this conference exists, to experience the kind of informative sessions that expose us to new ideas and methods. To hear outstanding high school choirs, bands and orchestras. Students need to see how eager music teachers are about their profession and learn how to get excited about their own careers.”

Other aspects of being a music education major at Alma include joining a program called the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). The chapter at Alma is new, only being official this academic year.

“Only after you are sure that this is the right path for you would I recommend joining,” said Everly.

NAfME has a lot to offer to students once you join. “It is a huge organization that offers great resources to music educators. They have standards that much more in-depth than some other programs. There are also a lot of professional development opportunities between MMC, national lobbying, and online webinars available 24/7,” said Witteveen.

NAfME is not the only music program for educators, but it is a big one. “In addition to NAfME, other organizations to be involved in include Michigan School Vocal Music Association (MSVMA) for vocal directors, Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) for instrumental directors, and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) for directors of all kinds. All of these organizations are beneficial for students in very similar ways,” said Everly.

“I feel that music educators should look at the NAfME standards for education because they are much clearer and probable and are written by educators themselves,” said Hannah Flemming (’19).

“It is very exciting for me to know that our students have started this chapter of NAfME so that they can foster discussions about music education and to support and challenge one another in preparation to enter the profession,” said Nichols.

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