Federal Arts Education Policy Updates

February 22, 2013
From: Isaac Brown, Legislative Counsel
Vol. 13:02

Federal Arts Education Policy Updates
I’m writing today with some congressional updates relating to federal arts education policy, as well as information on how you can help NASAA advance these efforts on behalf of all state arts agencies.

Reauthorizing ESEA

2013 is the year that Congress may take up reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This is the set of policies that provides equitable access to education, establishes certain curriculum standards and authorizes federally funded school programs administered by states. As Congress grapples with other issues—such as deficit reduction and gun control—there is not yet a firm timetable in place for work on ESEA to commence. When it does, NASAA will be at the forefront of advocacy efforts working to ensure that:

  • the arts are named as core academic subjects for all students,
  • Title I provisions allow for the inclusion of arts activities in underserved schools,
  • the U.S. Department of Education continues its programs promoting successful arts education models, and
  • other federal agencies supporting educational programs—especially those emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)—include the arts in their definitions and policies.

New STEAM Caucus

The new congressional STEAM Caucus, led by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Aaron Schock (R-IL), has begun its work. NASAA represented state arts agencies by attending this new group’s kickoff briefing, held on Capitol Hill on Thursday, February 14. The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is playing a leadership role in the operation of this caucus, and RISD President John Maeda addressed this gathering. NASAA CEO Jonathan Katz personally greeted and thanked each member of Congress who attended on behalf of their state arts agency.

The long-term goals of this caucus are to advocate for policy changes encouraging educators and federal agencies to integrate the arts and design with STEM education. In addition to cochairs Bonamici and Schock, the membership of the caucus currently includes Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI), Jared Polis (D-CO), David Cicilline (D-RI), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Gerald Connolly (D-VA), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).

H.R. 51 Still in Committee

On February 4, Rep. Langevin introduced House Resolution 51, asserting the importance of the arts and design as part of federal education policy. H.R. 51 was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. While passage of this resolution at this time is unlikely, it is still quite useful to advocates because its language frames the value of arts and design education in compelling economic and educational terms. In addition, it can serve as a valuable organizing tool, providing members of Congress the opportunity to go on record as supporting inclusion of arts education in STEM programs. Check out the full text of the bill here.

What You Can Do

  • If representatives from your state have stepped forward to be part of the STEAM caucus, contact those offices and thank them for their participation and their acknowledgement of the importance of arts education as an educational and economic asset. You may also wish to encourage other members of your House delegation to participate in this caucus.
  • See if your state is represented on the House Committee on Education and the Workforceor the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. If so, contact these members and convey your support of H.R. 51.
  • It’s not too early to begin organizing your information resources in preparation for ESEA reauthorization. Although no legislation is pending currently, when action does commence it will be valuable for you to be able to share arts education success stories from your own state, especially examples that illustrate positive student outcomes from school improvement efforts that include the arts. NASAA encourages you to start gathering those examples now and to familiarize yourself with how your state is represented on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Establish communication and build critical relationships now, so they will be in place when specific action is needed.

NASAA will keep you apprised of new developments and calls to action as the work of the 113th Congress unfolds. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.