January 10, 2016
2015 Arts Policy Successes
Before we jump into the year ahead—which certainly proposes to be an exciting and important year for arts advocates—let’s take a moment to reflect on 2015 and what a landmark year it was for advancing the arts through policy.
For the first time since 2010, Congress appropriated and the president signed legislation increasing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This accomplishment should not be understated: Congress has experienced tremendous pressure to reduce spending for domestic programs, and several agencies have received substantial funding cuts. After years of recommending reductions to the NEA’s budget, leaders from both political parties in Congress and the Obama administration worked together to secure the new funding level. This degree of bipartisan cooperation would not have been possible without the concerted and dedicated efforts of advocates throughout the country who, over time, were able to win support from once skeptical members of Congress about the value to the nation derived from federal investment in the NEA. I am absolutely certain that the unprecedented partnership between the NEA and state arts agencies was a significant factor, and so I thank all of you for your hard work.
Another major victory happened toward the end of the year, when Congress reached an agreement reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Congress had not been able to pass such legislation since 2001, when it enacted the No Child Left Behind Act. That legislation expired in 2006, and Congress had attempted and failed to pass an amendment to the law ever since. In passing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Congress opened the door for significant participation of the arts in public education, including in STEM education. My December NASAA Notes column offers additional details. As in the case of the NEA budget, the successful inclusion of the arts in ESSA is the direct result of many years of knocking on doors in Congress to educate members about the value of incorporating the arts into public education curricula.
As we look to 2016, it is important to remember these successes and how they were attained. The budget process for fiscal year 2017 is already under way, and NASAA and other national arts organizations are deliberating to determine our policy priorities for the coming year. While those positions are not yet finalized, it is not too early for you to reach out to your elected members of Congress, to thank them for their tremendous work in 2015 and to urge their continued support moving forward. It is our hope that last year’s increase in funding for the NEA was just a starting point; we must continue to help members of Congress understand the tremendous value and benefits associated with NEA funding.
I want to thank all of you for diligent efforts on behalf of the arts. It is tremendously gratifying to work with such a group of smart and dedicated advocates who are always willing to jump in whenever opportunity or challenges strike. I look forward to working with all of you in the year ahead.
In this Issue
State to State
- Minnesota: Evaluation Workshops
- Rhode Island: Arts & Culture Research Network
- New York: Media Arts Map
From the CEO
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