House and Senate Consider Arts Legislation This Week

From: Isaac Brown, Legislative Counsel
Vol. 15:08

When Congress returns to session Tuesday it is expected to consider several pieces of legislation that impact the arts.

National Endowment for the Arts

As we noted in an alert two weeks ago, the House of Representatives is expected to continue debating the Interior Appropriations Bill, which includes funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for fiscal year 2016. That legislation currently funds the agency at $146 million, or level funding. The bill is being considered under an “open rule” that allows any member of the House to introduce an amendment impacting the agency (either positively or negatively). Should such an amendment be introduced, we will notify you.

In the meantime, please reach out to your House delegation and urge them to support funding for the NEA of at least the proposed level of $146 million. Remind them that 40% of all grant dollars appropriated to the federal agency goes directly to state arts agencies—as a result, any reduction (or increase) in funding directly impacts states.


NASAA also has learned that this week the Senate will begin floor debate on the Every Child Achieves Act, legislation that would amend the nation’s preeminent education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The legislation, introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), was approved unanimously by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee earlier this year. In its current form, the bill preserves the arts as a core academic subject of learning, maintains support for after-school learning programs and provides for activities currently administered through the U.S. Department of Education’s Arts in Education grant program. These provisions are constructive in their efforts to sustain arts education for students.

This week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider its own bill reforming ESEA. That legislation, H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, does not define core academic subjects, and also eliminates funding for current after-school and arts in education programs, instead providing grants to states and local school districts.

It is important to note that amendments will be considered by both legislatures that could change the composition of either bill. But however this legislation evolves, it is important for arts education to be included. We therefore encourage state arts agencies to contact your members of Congress to urge that they support provisions that enhance opportunities for arts education in America’s public schools.

If you have any questions about the appropriations or education bills under consideration this week, please feel to contact me at We will continue to keep you updated as these matters unfold.