January 23, 2008
Executive Director's Column
Arts advocates scored an impressive victory with the significant restoration of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts in the 2008 omnibus appropriations bill (see this month’s update from NASAA’s legislative counsel, Tom Birch). NASAA’s members have been key players over the years in working toward this historic legislative achievement, building relationships with their Senators and Representatives, meeting with their legislators on Capitol Hill, and arranging opportunities for their federal representatives in Congress to see first hand at home how the public sector plays a unique and essential role in ensuring that the benefits of the arts accrue to all American communities. Our members have been especially important in developing the trust of appropriations committee leaders, working with Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate to make the case for federal arts funding.
In Washington, DC, NASAA works in collaboration with other national arts organizations to amplify our collective voice and to present a united front to Congress. For the past two years, NASAA’s legislative counsel, Tom Birch, has chaired this coalition, leading the discussions which have helped to shape our advocacy message and strategy. In the beginning of the year at the start of the federal budget process, Tom and several of his colleagues from other arts service organizations met with Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), the newly installed chair of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, to present the case for restoration of funding to the arts endowment’s budget. Dicks, long a supporter of the NEA, assured the group that an increase in the arts endowment’s budget was among his top priorities for the year. Dicks was true to his word.
NASAA’s policy work with the leadership of the National Endowment for the Arts helped shape the Administration’s budget proposal. The language in the final appropriations measure consolidating the state partnership grants into two basic categories–state partnership grants and underserved grants–was a direct result of NASAA’s participation in policy development with the NEA. The result for NASAA members is increased flexibility in utilizing federal resources to serve their state’s unique cultural environment.
Our legislative counsel ensured that the proposal to consolidate the state partnership grants moved smoothly through the legislative process, promoting it with advocacy colleagues and assuring congressional appropriators of the value of the change in budget language. In the final analysis, the language shaped by NASAA and included in the bill by the president contributed both to the ability of state arts leaders to use federal funds more flexibly, as well as to a favorable reception in Congress for a jump in NEA budget level. That increase will also ensure that funds are available to realize Chairman Gioia’s stated intention of significantly increasing grants to state arts agencies for their partnership with the NEA and The Poetry Foundation in the national Poetry Out Loud initiative, and to help continue the Education Leaders Institute initiative in five states annually.
NASAA members can be proud as well of their advocacy on behalf of arts education within the U.S. Department of Education. Here again, our legislative counsel coordinates NASAA advocacy with a national coalition that speaks with a united voice. Congress this year provided an increase of $2.23 million for a total of $37.53 million in FY 2008. The major share of the $2 million increase will go to fund in the 2008-09 school year the first fast-response arts education survey since 1999.
When the federal budget process begins again in February, NASAA will continue to work with our advocacy colleagues and our supporters in Congress to move ever closer to restoring the full strength of the NEA’s budget lost to deep cuts in the mid-1990s. Many thanks to you, NASAA members, for your constant commitment to our collective advocacy, and congratulations on this important victory.
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