NASAA Notes: March 2016

March 4, 2016

Progress and Opportunities

Next week, arts advocates from throughout the country will travel to Washington, D.C., for Arts Advocacy Day. They will be arriving at an interesting time in the evolution of national arts policy.

The last of year of any presidential administration generates natural and often healthy questions for any advocacy community. Some are retrospective: Did we do enough over the last eight years to advance our cause? What mistakes were made? Some are prospective: What does a new Republican or Democratic administration mean for the issues we care about most? How should we prepare for a new administration?

As we look back on President Obama’s time in office, the administration’s eighth and final budget proposal, released earlier this month, serves in some ways as a capstone of the ups and downs we have encountered throughout his tenure. In the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, the president proposes a modest increase of about $2 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), to $149.8¬†million. While this figure is lower than we had hoped for, and considerably less than the $155 million that NASAA and other arts organizations will be urging Congress to support next week, it does underscore the subtle yet important progress that has been made.

President Obama and Congress are still under significant pressure, both politically and by statute, to reduce federal domestic spending. Not only is this a presidential election year, but every House seat and a third of Senate seats are up for election. In election years, members of both parties always look to reduce spending as a way of promoting their party’s fiscal responsibility. This is especially true for President Obama, who has long said that his administration will forever be linked with the fiscal crisis and recovery that encompassed the first term of his presidency. After many years of making the case, the FY2017 budget proposal represents the second year in a row that the administration proposed an increase in funding for the NEA. While it’s not as much as we’d like, we should recognize that it would not have happened without the persistent, intelligent case that NASAA and arts advocates presented year after year. This is especially true in light of the fact that sequestration, the mandatory spending reduction mechanism enacted as part of the 2011 budget deal, remains in effect until FY2021.

Beyond fiscal support for the NEA, we also made significant policy advances for the arts, particularly in the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the landmark law that enhances the role of the arts in public education and encourages states to incorporate arts education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. This achievement should not be overlooked: it came as the direct result of a concerted campaign by advocates who educated policymakers that including the arts actually enhances STEM education!

As we look ahead to the next president’s administration, regardless of who that may be, it is perfectly appropriate, and prudent, for our community to spend the next few months reflecting on the last eight years and on our advocacy efforts before the president and Congress. Every new administration presents the opportunity to essentially hit the reset button. With new decision makers taking the helm, we get the chance to refine and redefine our message. At NASAA, under the leadership of our new CEO, Pam Breaux, we are thinking about this new phase for advocacy and would love to begin a dialogue with all of you as well, beginning with Arts Advocacy Day next week and continuing through and beyond NASAA Assembly 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in September. I have no doubt that we will continue to develop thoughtful, creative and, most importantly, effective strategies that continue to advance the arts and state arts agencies. I look forward to working with all of you in the months and years ahead.

In this Issue

From the CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

Research on Demand

More Notes from NASAA

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