Music Education Policy Updates

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) federal education law that was enacted in 2015 defines music as part of a “well-rounded education.” State and local school districts are making changes to policy and funding to meet the requirements of the new ESSA education law and since a school’s curriculum is determined by the state or local education department, NAMM members serving school districts across the country have the opportunity to act now on the overwhelming belief of parents and teachers that music should be available to all students as part of the curriculum. The federal government will continue to affect these decisions in terms of funding programs through its annual appropriations process as well as monitoring how the US Department of Education provides guidance and oversight to ensure that states and districts adhere to the intent of the law.

The information provided here will be updated regularly to aid in this ongoing effort. Please check back often.

NAMM Advocacy Resources: 

Updates: 

  • Outlook for Congressional Budget and Appropriations: content/process and what to watch in Title IV

    Outlook for Congressional Budget and Appropriations: content/process and what to watch in Title IV 
    Written by Leo Coco, Senior Policy Advisor, Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough LLP
    Oct. 16, 2017

    Congress is in for a long and challenging October and November, and likely December. With the end of the fiscal year approaching and their work not done, last month Congress brokered a 3-prong deal with the President to fund the government through December 8, 2017, at current FY 2017 levels. This legislation is called a Continuing Resolution. It also included emergency hurricane aid and a short-term debt limit extension so the US can continue to pay its bills.  The deal provides time for Congress to work on a budget, complete the FY 2018 appropriations process to replace current funding, and to create the opportunity through budget authority to take on tax reform.  This update will provide details regarding these budget and appropriations activities as related to education.

    1.    The Budget

    The President submitted his budget to Congress early this year setting forth his spending levels and priorities, but it was considered dead on arrival.  Of particular concern was his elimination of major programs for the US Department of Education (USED), including teacher training and professional development.  His budget also canceled a new $1.6 billion block grant program to the states called the Student Achievement and Academic Enrichment Grant Program (SAAEG) to provide for a well-rounded education for students, including music.

    Keep in mind that Congress’ budget process usually begins earlier in the year in response to the President’s proposed budget.  The House and Senate Budget Committees write separate resolutions which set forth the general framework for Congressional spending and taxing levels.  These Budget Resolutions (not bills) do not have the force of law nor do they require the President’s signature.  Most important, a final budget does not provide direct funding to any department or program; rather, it mandates certain amounts of money--- about 1/3 of the total federal budget--- that Congress has the discretion to spend on specific programs, like education.

    The House of Representatives on October 5 passed a budget resolution for FY 2018 by a vote of 219 to 206, with only Republicans voting in favor.  This budget provides for total federal budget cuts of $5.4 trillion over a period of 10 years.  Of this amount, the USED will be targeted for mandatory spending cuts of $211 billion over ten years, predominantly to the student loan and Pell Grant programs.

    The Senate Budget Committee (not the full Senate) passed its budget resolution on October 5 with mandatory budget cuts for the USED that are similar to the House-passed bill.  The next step is for the full Senate to pass its budget, likely scheduled this month.

    A Budget Conference Committee will be named to reconcile differences and write a final version that must be passed individually by the House and Senate. This final budget resolution will also contain “reconciliation instructions,” a legislative process that allows for fast-track passage of certain budgetary legislation on spending, revenues, and the federal debt limit with a simple majority vote in both the House and Senate.  The Republican leaders in the House and Senate want to use these reconciliation procedures to enact tax reform legislation before the end of the year.

    2.    Appropriations

    After the budget is finalized and goals are set for spending levels, the appropriations process continues where decisions are made to distribute money to the individual agencies, including the USED.  The Senate and House Appropriations Committees write 12 separate bills that group agencies, such as the Labor-Education-Health and Human Services departments. This bill will be referred to as USED funding.  Appropriations bills are different from the budget resolution in two significant ways:  (1) only appropriations bills require the President’s signature and become law; and, (2) appropriation bills provide, at the discretion of Congress, specific spending allocations to every office of a department while the budget only sets broad spending goals.

    The appropriations process should be completed by October 1 for the start of the new fiscal year, but Congress has not yet completed a budget for FY 2018 nor has it completed work on the 12 appropriations bills.  This is a tall order to meet the deadline of December 8 when funding for the government runs out.  Here is where things stand:

    The House of Representatives passed on September 14 an omnibus FY 2018 appropriations bill that included all 12 government funding bills, including funding for the USED.  It funds USED at an estimated $66 billion, which is $2.4 billion or 3.3% below the FY2017 levels.  Overall USED funding would be cut in the bill, but there are some programs that would see increases compared to current funding levels, including the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants ($500 million with an increase of $100 million).  It is significant that the House recognizes and funds this important grant program to provide students with a well-rounded education, including music education among other subjects, especially since the President proposed to eliminate it.   However, the program is authorized in ESSA at $1.6 billion.

    During debate on the omnibus appropriations bill, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) offered an amendment to urge Congress to fund the SSAEG program at the full authorization level ($1.6 billion) to assure a well-rounded education for all students.  The amendment does not increase funding but calls important attention to the need to increase funding significantly in future years.  The amendment passed on a voice vote (not recorded).

    Also of interest, Title I funding levels (for low-income school districts) are maintained in the bill, but Title II, Part A  funds to promote professional development and teaching quality are eliminated.

    The Senate Appropriations Committee has completed work on 8 of the 12 spending bills, including one for funding the USED, but none have been considered by the full Senate.  Funding for USED in FY 2018 is set at $68.3 billion ($29 million increase or a 0.1% increase above FY 2017 spending levels).   It includes $450 million for the SSAEG grant program (an increase of $50 million), $15.5 billion ($40 million increase) for Title 1 (low income school districts), and $2.1 billion ($44 million increase) for Title II,Part A for effective teaching and professional development.

    3.    Next Steps in the Process

    Congress must complete the budget and appropriations processes before the Continuing Resolution expires on December 8--- less than two months away.  Here are the most likely scenarios:

    •    Congress has indicated it wants to increase the spending caps for FY 2018 appropriations.  The chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees (for education funding) support an increase in spending for their bills.  Congress must negotiate a budget deal to allow that to happen.  If successful, it makes it more likely they will be able to pass the appropriations bills.

    •    Congress is deadlocked and fails to reach a budget deal and decides to move forward with another Continuing Resolution through the rest of FY 2018.  This would require slight reductions in spending from current FY 2017 levels to be made either across-the-board or to specific programs.

    •    Congress decides to continue working to complete a budget deal and passes a short-term continuing resolution.

    We will provide an update on the status of the Congressional Budget and Appropriations in December.  Stay tuned.

     

  • ESSA Update: New Template for State ESSA Plans Released by the Department of Education

    Updated: March 24, 2017

    In a letter delivered to chief state school officers, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued information for implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The letter included an updated template for the consolidated state plans, as well as provided two deadlines for states to submit their plans to the US Department of Education for review and approval: April 3 or September 18, 2017.

    Of note is that the new template eliminates the requirement that state education policy leaders must reach out to a variety of stakeholders, such as teachers, parents, community and business leaders, and policymakers.  To be clear, ESSA guidelines still require stakeholder input, but the U.S. Department of Education does not require this input to be addressed in the revised template states must submit outlining their plan for implementation.

    NAfME’s Director of Public Policy and Professional Development, Lynn Tuttle explains: “Within the law itself, there are requirements for state plans that the state must address to the U.S. Department of Education. The earlier template asked the states to define what they were doing with stakeholder engagement and how they responded to that information collected from the stakeholders. That request, while a good practice, was not required in the law. The law merely requires that states sign a checklist saying they have done this work. The Department has stated in the template that they will request assurances from the states at a later date.”

    Tuttle continues, “This administration is clearly signaling that it will only require what is in the law, and the administration is signaling what it feels is most important by focusing on those items in the template first, then working through the assurances, then the academic standards/assessments, the toughest part of the whole lot, if you ask me.”

    Our partners at NAfME have a new template for music and arts advocates based on the revised one from the U.S. Department of Education. Keep in mind that states which submitted for April (or even the September deadline!) may use the original template if they include the additional areas required in the new one. Here are 3 areas where state advocacy coalitions can focus:

    1. Music is part of a well-rounded education. If your state has already listed music/arts as part of a well-rounded education in the original template, we suggest that you keep that language in the new template, placing it where it makes most sense.

    2. School quality and student success indicator. With the accountability rules removed from the new template, this indicator, which could include music education-friendly measures, is again wide open based on the flexible language found in the law. Even under the old template, many states were looking at music and arts access and participation rates as measures here. We urge music and arts education advocates to continue to work to include measures of access, equity and opportunity as defined by instructional time and presence of high quality teachers in state AND local education plans.  If there is more flexibility, then let’s push in and assure that flexibility leans towards opportunities for a well-rounded education for all children – one that includes music and the arts.

    EdWeek blog on this topic.

    3. Title IV support. Advocates can request that your state use its Title IV funding to support music and arts education at the state level.

    Even with these changes our work remains essentially the same as it has been since the passage of ESSA. According to Alyson Klein with Education Week, Senator Lamar Alexander, an ESSA architect, thinks ESSA could be around for decades.

    NAMM will continue to post relevant updates here and it is more important than ever to share updates for our State Coalition Dashboard. As always, we are standing by to assist you in your advocacy efforts.

    Related resources:

    NAfME ESSA Blog “March Madness: ESSA State Plans with Less Federal Oversight”

    U.S. Department of Education Resources “ESSA Consolidated State Plans”

    Education Week Blog “Trump Education Dept. Releases New ESSA Guidelines”

    Education Week Blog “No, Congress Didn't Vote to Scrap ESSA: Answers to Your FAQs”

  • 8 Things to Ponder in the 2016 Election Season

    The most important thing we have learned in our advocacy efforts is that relationships matter.  Whether Democrat, Republican or Independent, we are able to work with policymakers--- at all levels of government--- to advance music and arts education.  As the post-Labor Day election season is here, it is important to inventory candidates and staff at every level--- from presidential to congressional to gubernatorial to state legislators.

    Armed with evidence-based research and sound reasoning, we have communicated the importance of providing students with access to a well-rounded education, including access to quality music and arts programs.  Our efforts have been successful as a result of your tenacity and passion and getting to know your elected representatives. As the post-Labor Day election season is here, it is important to inventory candidates and staff at every level--- from presidential to congressional to gubernatorial to state legislators.  Regarding music and arts education, it is critical that we (1) research their policies and platforms, (2) identify opportunities to participate in candidate events and reach out to their campaigns, and (3) leverage influence with candidates we know and build relationships with future elected officials.   To guide your communication efforts in the coming weeks, below is a snapshot of major issues and elections at all levels of government in November.

    Major National Campaign Issues

    There are 4 major issues that Republican and Democratic voters agree should be top priorities of the presidential candidates:  jobs and the economy; terrorism and national security; healthcare; and education.  Ninety percent of Democrats consider education extremely/very important to 67% of Republicans (Gallup 2016 Benchmark Survey).

    Key Point:   Higher education issues, particularly college access and student debt are capturing the attention of voters, but implementation of ESSA slated for the 2017-2018 school year are timely and relevant to policymakers at all levels, especially in what role they may have in developing individual state plans.

    Relevance of Music and Arts Education

    Passage of the new federal law Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its implementation at the state and local levels is a bridge to conversations with candidates. These elected officials are charged with oversight and development of state plans at the state and local levels and oversight of implementation guidance at the federal level.

    Key Point:  Congress mandates in the new ESSA law that students be provided with a well- rounded education.  For the first time Music is listed in the law as one of the academic subjects that contributes to a well-rounded education.  Now is the time to advocate for access to music and arts education during this ongoing process of state plan development.

    Presidential Candidates: Policies and Party Platforms on Music/Arts Education

    Hillary Clinton supports music and arts education being taught in the classroom and believes an investment in music and the arts is an investment in the future of children.  She has indicated that music and arts can be transformational in the lives of all children when fully funded and supported. 

    Key Quote: "That is why it is not only something that is the right thing to do---supporting arts education--- but it's the smart thing for our nation, for both the public sector and the private sector.  Because we are by doing so, doing one of the things that we know will pay off the most in making children better able to learn." (White House, 1998 Arts Education Meeting)

    Donald Trump supports a well-rounded education.  He opposes the US Department of Education determining how education dollars are spent for music and the arts, or otherwise.

    Key Quote:  "Critical thinking skills, the ability to read, write and do basic math are still the keys to economic success.  A holistic education that includes literature and the arts is just as critical to creating good citizens."  (Washington Post interview 2016)

    In the party platforms ratified at their conventions, the Democratic Party platform includes:  "Democrats are proud of our support for arts funding and education.  We will continue to support public funding for…. programs providing art and music education in primary and secondary schools… and high quality STEAM programs".  There is no specific reference to music/arts education in the Republican Party platform.

    Congressional Elections

    All 435 seats in the US House of Representatives will be up for election this year.  Forty-three of these House seats are "open" since the incumbent is not seeking election.  Thirty-four US Senate seats are up for reelection, 24 Republicans and 10 Democrats.  At this point in time, speculation is that the House will remain a Republican majority, and the Senate could flip to a Democratic majority given the larger number of contested Senate Republicans up for reelection.

    Key Point:  This is an opportunity to reach out to your US representatives to reinforce your position on music and the arts as well-rounded subjects as mandated in the new federal law.

    Gubernatorial Elections

    Twelve governorships are up for election this year with 8 of them being now held by Democrats. Governors from the following states will be elected in 2016: DE, IN, MO, MT, NH, NC, ND, OR, UT, VT, WA, WV (the 4 in bold are the most closely watched elections.)

    Key Point:  This is an important time to reach out to the candidates for governor in these states to advocate for music and arts education as a vital part of ESSA state plans to provide a well-rounded education.  In the new law, Governors are required to sign off on their state plans giving them substantial influence in developing and approving them.

    State Legislative Elections

    Forty-two of the 50 state senates are holding elections this year as are 44 of the 49 state houses.  Altogether, 5,920 (80.2%) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats are up for election during this election year.  The following states are NOT holding state legislative elections this year:  AL, LA, MD, MS, NJ, VA.  In Michigan, only elections to the state House will be held.

    Key Point:  Your local senators and representatives to your state legislature are important relationships to develop and maintain.  Some may serve on the legislature's education committees and others may have influence with the governor and other local officials who are active in developing your state plan for ESSA implementation.

    Deciding on Your Involvement

    There are many opportunities for participation in these elections.  It is important to distinguish between volunteering on a campaign and communicating with a campaign.  While you may choose to do both, your efforts here are directed at communications to raise awareness and provide information on the issue of music and arts education to all candidates seeking election--- Democratic, Independent, Republican.  It is important to recognize that Congress has completed its legislative work on ESSA, that the current Administration is developing guidance for the states to implement the new law, that state governors and legislators (and other stakeholders, like you) will be developing the plans through most of next year.  The next President will appoint a new US Secretary of Education who will oversee the continued implementation.

    Key Point:  Decide which elections this year are the most important to you--- federal, state or local--- and develop strategies to contact those particular candidates or staff.  Your input can be provided in-person at town hall meetings, at an appointment or other events; by emailing or calling campaign offices; and communications/comments via campaign websites.

    Presidential Transition

    The presidential candidates have already formed committees to plan for the next Administration.  Donald Trump has appointed NJ Governor Chris Christie to lead his transition team and former Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers will likely lead the national security group within the transition team.  Hillary Clinton has appointed former Colorado Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to lead her team, along with former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.  The committees begin early to forge a smooth and successful transition for whoever wins the presidency.

    Key Point:  While there will be more that 4,000 appointments made by a new Administration, the most significant in terms of music and arts education will be the new Secretary of Education, the head of the National Endowment of the Arts, and other senior officials named to those agencies.  We will monitor closely. 

    Written By: Leo Coco, Senior Policy Advisor, Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough LLP

  • "The Every Student Succeeds Act Implementation Progress" Educational Webinar Series Is Now Available

    The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) federal education law that was enacted in 2015 defines music as part of a “well-rounded education.” Implementation of the law and distribution of funds is scheduled for the 2017-2018 school year, and to get ready to submit their plans state education entities are collecting information from their community members. This is where you come in! State education associations are holding “listening tours” across the U.S. in town hall-style meetings and/or they are accepting input by email or via web-based surveys. Action is needed now to ensure that every student in your state benefits from new opportunities in music education under Title I and Title IV funding.

    NAMM has partnered with Americans for the Arts to connect NAMM Members with arts advocacy organizations in their states and to educate them about the definition of a “well-rounded education” that now includes music and the arts. This is an exciting chapter of education in America, but you must make your voice heard!

    The AFTA team has been traveling the country to work with music and arts advocacy leaders and NAMM Members from several states to find out what connections have already been made and how NAMM and AFTA can help. As a result of these fact-finding tours, AFTA has created a three-part series on ESSA's implementation progress that covers how to:

    • Form a team to promote music and arts as part of a “well-rounded education”
    • Draft an “ask” document to gain support for music and the arts from decision makers
    • Incorporate music and arts into new state accountability systems

    Whether you are a new or an experienced advocate, this is a great place to start as you ramp up your music education advocacy activities in your state. Please enjoy these webinars and share with your network.  Find out how to access the webinars using these instructions, and read a note from Jeff Poulin