Teacher Walkouts, Protests, and Insufficient Funding for Education
Inadequate and deficient funding for education in the United States continues to be a systemic issue across all levels. In the past few weeks, thousands of educators from across the nation, including those in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, and West Virginia, have conducted protests and walkouts to raise awareness of this important issue and seek higher funding for public education.
While Congress recently passed a bipartisan spending bill that raised education funding to a record $70.9 billion, education still only accounts for a meager 2% of all federal spending. This equates to only spending 2¢ of every federal dollar on education. However, the issue at hand is heightened only greater at the state and local level.
State and Local Funding for Education Continues
The real place where education gets funded is at the state and school district level. States provide 47% of public education dollars. And, while states have recovered from the Great Recession, investment in public education has not recovered to pre-recessionary levels in 29 states, as of FY 2015. States like Arizona and Oklahoma have seen excessive state tax cuts that have shrunk state revenues, making it even more difficult to provide adequate resources for education. Similarly, funding per student has fallen substantially in many localities, and in the instances where it has risen, funds still have not been able to make up for cuts in state support. As such, many states face not only teacher shortages, but also lack classroom resources, adequate pay, including inflationary adjustments for educators and support personnel, and other programmatic support for students and educators.
Efforts by NAfME and our Federated State Associations (MEAs)
NAfME’s mission is to advance music education by promoting the understanding and making of music by all. However, this cannot be accomplished without dedicated and robust investments in education funding at all levels of government. At NAfME, one of our strategic directions is the tenant of advocacy: the music education community works together to influence the legislative and regulatory environment in support of music education and educators. To this end, NAfME has worked at the national level to ensure full funding for the small portion of education resources that come from the Federal government. But, as mentioned, the bulk of education funding flows from the state and local levels.
Several of our State Music Educator Associations have been working diligently to improve education funding and support for music education. In New York, the New York State Music Association (NYSSMA) Spent its 45th annual “Joe Sugar Day” lobbying lawmakers to alleviate the two percent tax cap. This law limits the annual growth of total property taxes levied by independent school districts and other local governments to 2 percent or the rate of inflation. This has limited education funding in many school districts across the state
Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) spent its advocacy day reaching out to lawmakers advocating for the increase of Pennsylvania’s Basic Education Subsidy Fund. By increasing the basic subsidy to school districts, Pennsylvania would serve students more effectively by allowing school districts the discretion to use the money as they see fit. PMEA calls on lawmakers to support Governor Wolf’s current proposal to add $100 million to the basic education subsidy to begin reversing the nearly one billion dollars in education cuts since 2011.
A special mention must be made to the West Virginia Music Educators Association (WVMEA) who navigated planning for their annual music conference during the heart of the state’s teacher walk out. School personnel returned to classrooms just a day before the strike ended.
NAfME encourages music advocates, parents, students, and members of the community to take action and urge state and local decision-makers to make the proper investments in education. Only then can we ensure that teachers have the critical resources they require, and every student has access to a well-rounded education that includes music.