May 4, 2015
Education Policy in Progress
April was a busy month in Washington, as Congress worked on several pieces of legislation critical to the arts.
First, as we reported last month, the House Appropriations Committee continues to work on funding bills for federal agencies in advance of the fiscal year 2016 budget. As a reminder, NASAA and other arts organizations are urging Congress to fund the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) at $155 million. That figure would represent an increase of about $9 million over current funding. A draft budget from the House of Representatives could be released at any time; NASAA will let you know as soon as it is available.
Second, the Senate took major steps to advance legislation that would reform federal education policy. The legislation, known as the “Every Child Achieves Act,” passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously on April 16, after a three-day markup hearing during which more than 40 amendments were considered.
The legislation, which amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), includes several provisions of significance to the arts:
- The legislation would retain the arts as a “core academic subject” under Title I of the law. Inclusion of the arts means that state and local education agencies can incorporate the arts in programs funded under this statute.
- The law would be expanded to include pre-K programs. An amendment offered by HELP Committee ranking Democrat Sen. Patty Murray (WA) and approved by the committee would create a competitive grant pre-K program that can include arts programming.
- An amendment introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) inserts language authorizing state and local education agencies to increase access to arts-related community and national outreach programs, as well as provide arts educators with professional development opportunities.
- An amendment offered by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and approved by the committee continues authorization for the 21st Century Community After School Program, which includes the arts as an eligible activity.
Having passed out of committee, the bill will now go the floor of the Senate for consideration, though specific timing is unclear.
While the progress made is noteworthy and promising, significant hurdles remain. During the committee process, the chair, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), was able to convince members to withhold controversial amendments that could have derailed the bill’s progress; but as the bill goes to the floor, senators from both parties could offer amendments that make it unappealing to a majority of members. An additional complication, should the bill pass in the Senate, is that the House of Representatives would have to pass the same legislation for President Obama to have the opportunity to sign it into law. To date, the House has been considering a different bill, H.R. 5, the “Student Success Act,” which differs greatly from the Senate bill. Reconciling those differences in a manner that Senate Democrats and President Obama support will be a sizable challenge.
As this process unfolds, NASAA will continue to look for opportunities to expand opportunities for the arts in this legislation, and will let you know when outreach to your members of Congress can have the biggest impact on these proceedings.
In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me at 202-540-9162 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific questions.
In this Issue
State to State
- Georgia: Poet Laureate's Prize for High School Students
- Alabama: Arts Education Junior Leadership Team
- Tennessee: New Agency Brand
Executive Director's Column
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