A cutback in the Granite School District's elementary music program may not save the district much, music teachers say. They are trying to convince district officials that they need to rethink the reduction.

Besides not being cost-effective, the decreased funding for elementary programs could "be ruinous for both junior and senior high school programs as early as 1991-92," says a position paper developed by instrumental music teachers in the district's junior high schools.Last summer, the Granite Board of Education included a 50 percent reduction in elementary music programs in a series of cutbacks to balance the district budget. Board members were reluctant to cut the availability of music instruction for elementary students, but made the reduction to offset other demands on the budget.

The proposal was expected to save $350,000 to $450,000, said Ellis Worthen, district music specialist.

Since last spring's budget preparation, the district has been found to have a larger-than-expected surplus - up to $5.9 million in a recent audit. Worthen hopes district officials can be convinced to use some of the surplus to restore the elementary music programs to full strength before the effects move into junior high and high schools.

"We are working with our district people and hope they will see the logic of our arguments," Worthen said.

Music teachers tend to have very large classes. Putting those children into other settings may increase the number of teachers needed to provide instruction in other subjects, he said, rather than saving the cost of music teachers.

"Any decision that causes teaching loads (for music teachers) to be reduced will increase the class-size burden of the teachers in other academic areas and effectively nullify much of the class-size reduction for which the Granite Board and district staff have worked so diligently," says the position paper.

One effect of the cutbacks may be to limit music participation at the secondary schools primarily to students whose parents can afford private lessons, Worthen said.

"It won't affect just bands and orchestras, but choirs, choruses and classes in music theory," he said.

The effects of reduced music involvement at the elementary schools would become apparent in the junior high schools within a couple of years and in the high schools in five to six years, he said.

The move also would increase the responsibility at junior high schools for beginning instruction, and that "is fraught with inherent dangers and fiscal pitfalls," says the position paper.

Granite historically has had a strong music program, with approximately 35 percent of the students in grades five to 12 involved in classes or performing groups. Nationally, only about 20 percent of students have that involvement.