NASAA Notes: May 2016

May 2, 2016

NEA Budget Delay; What to Do Now

A consistent refrain in this column in recent months has been the growing uncertainty about the appropriations process in the U.S. Congress. While it has been mentioned before, it is worth restating that, traditionally by early May, legislation has already been introduced in the House and Senate appropriating funds for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for the upcoming fiscal year.

This year, however, that process has been turned upside down; and just this week, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chair of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee (which has jurisdiction over the NEA’s budget) said she expected the NEA’s bill to be one of the last considered by Congress. The fact that the NEA’s budget will be one of the last to be voted upon is not unusual, as the Interior Appropriations bill is often considered toward the end of the process—but given that the process has largely not begun yet, we should all be prepared to have a considerable wait on our hands.

In my column last month, I suggested points to consider when interacting with members of Congress and staff in light of the lack of clarity around the NEA’s budget. This month, I am suggesting some issues apart from the NEA that you may want to consider raising with federal legislators:

  • Education Reform: Late last year, the president signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The legislation included several provisions that seemingly expand the opportunity for the arts to be included in public school curricula. While we are all thrilled with this progress, the legislation was written to minimize the U.S. Department of Education’s role in setting curriculum parameters in favor of greater latitude for state and local education agencies. While ESSA allows for inclusion of the arts, it is up to states to determine how involved the arts will be in their education models. If you have not done so already, please consider contacting your state’s department of education as well as your governor’s policy team to talk about how ESSA opens the door for broader arts inclusion in public school curricula.
  • Election 2016: Ensuring a government committed to support for the arts means electing officials who believe the arts are an important public responsibility. Candidates running for office—whether for state, local or national positions—need to know that voters are serious about public support for the arts. Take advantage of the campaign season to let the candidates know who you are, why the arts are important to you and how the arts contribute to the life of your community. The election season provides opportunities to attend candidate forums, town meetings and meet-and-greet parties in our neighborhoods as advocates for public funding of the arts. While this work is vitally important, please be aware of federal limitations on political activities as well as any additional requirements placed upon you by state law. With regard to federal law, nonprofit organizations are not permitted to participate in activities that can be viewed as endorsing or opposing particular candidates. As a result, it is important that your efforts be viewed as educational only. For example, you can ask candidate X a question about their views on the role of the arts in public education, but you are prohibited from making statements either for or against candidate X based upon their answer.

If you have any questions or concerns about these issues, please don’t hesitate to let me know. The lack of progress on the budget is frustrating to all of us, but anything you can do related to the two issues above will be tremendously helpful in advancing the arts.

In this Issue

State to State

Legislative Update

More Notes from NASAA

From the CEO

Research on Demand




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