July 8, 2015
Congress in Action for the Arts
After years of inaction, the U.S. Congress has returned to legislating in recent months. Last November’s sweeping election saw the Republican party increase its majority in the House of Representatives to its largest share since 1948, as well as assume control of the U.S. Senate for the first time since 2006. The logjam has been broken that had rendered the legislative branch inactive in recent years. Already this year, both chambers have passed significant legislation related to trade and are working on issues related to the environment and tax reform.
Never has this new pace in Washington been more evident than this week. The House of Representatives has been considering two pieces of legislation of premium import to arts advocates. For the first time since 2009, the House and Senate are expected to pass appropriations bills under regular order. Currently on the House floor, the Interior Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016—which includes the National Endowment for the Arts budget—is being debated. That bill recommends level funding of $146 million for the agency.
Also this week, the House of Representatives passed legislation amending the nation’s preeminent education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This marks the first time since 2001 that the House passed legislation amending the law. That legislation, the No Child Left Behind Act, expired in 2006. The Senate currently is debating the bill.
Each chamber is taking a different approach to the legislation. The Student Success Act, passed by the House, removes core academic subjects in favor of flexible grants to states and local education agencies. In the Senate, Education Committee Chair Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has made a concerted effort to engage and win the support of Democrats on the committee. As a result, his legislation, the Every Child Achieves Act, was unanimously approved out of the committee and heads for consideration by the full Senate with strong bipartisan engagement. The bill contains provisions that NASAA strongly supports:
- inclusion of the arts as a core academic subject under Title I
- funding for preschool and after-school programs (for which the arts are eligible)
- support for the Arts in Education Program at the U.S. Department of Education
Should the Senate pass its bill this week as expected, both chambers will then meet in conference to debate differences between the two bills. It will be interesting to monitor the result, as the Obama administration has already issued a statement saying it would likely veto the House’s approach. It is important to note that NASAA does not endorse either bill, but is engaging lawmakers in both chambers to urge support for arts education programming.
This week demonstrates that it is imperative that we continue efforts to build relationships with legislators and staff in Washington. Take the opportunity now to introduce yourself to your elected officials—or check in to reiterate support for the arts—and offer to be a resource.
In this Issue
State to State
- South Carolina: Annual Art Sale
- Indiana: Capacity Building Partnership
- Kentucky: Arts Entrepreneurship Training
More Notes from NASAA
From the CEO
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