National Association for Music Education (NAfME) actively lobbies on Capitol Hill on behalf of music education positions and closely monitors education policy in Washington, D.C. The Advocacy and Public Affairs staff also works with leaders in the Association’s federated state associations to bring about change on the state and local level, which is equally important.
Chris Woodside, NAfME assistant executive director in the NAfME Center for Advocacy and Public Affairs, points to the Kansas Music Educators Association (KMEA) and the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA) as two recent examples of effective local advocacy. He said, “Their work demonstrates how effective advocacy on the state level can be.”
In Massachusetts, MMEA is vigorously opposing musical instrument sterilization legislation.
Kansas leaders sponsored “The Impact of Budget Cuts on Music Education in Kansas,” a statewide survey by KMEA that was developed by Fred Burrack and Phillip Payne, of Kansas State University. The survey spanned 2007–2011 and highlighted the actual number of music positions cut and the loss of funding from the music programs.
Grassroots Action in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts Faith M. Lueth, MMEA President, said members there are urging defeat of House Bill #3893 because of the potential impact it will have on music programs and school systems in Massachusetts.
This bill requires that all public or charter schools in Massachusetts submit all of their wind instruments to a patented process of sterilization prior to being issued to a student unless the instrument is in the original packing as a new instrument.MMEA wrote a sample letter for its website that its members are to using to contact legislators. Lueth said, “Once we alerted them to the sample letter on the website, our members started calling, faxing and calling their legislators. Members have been great in responding. “
The letter reads in part:
“Music educators have always taken seriously the need for sanitizing instruments, and have promoted safe, clean practices for their students. They routinely replace mouthpieces as the primary points of contact and use disinfectants to prevent the spread of contaminants. Further, they check to make sure that students maintain strict levels of cleanliness for their own instruments.
While it is true that the bill in its current revision makes the adoption of this process at the local level voluntary, it is likely that well-meaning local school committee members will adopt this policy under the erroneous assumption that they are doing so in the best interests of students. In fact, the process is unnecessary, potentially harmful, financially devastating, and creates a monopoly for the company that sterilizes instruments. I urge you to defeat this legislation.”
Contacting the News Media
One MMEA member, Richard Saunders, music supervisor for Somerville public schools, took matters a step further, suggesting that a local television station do a story on the legislation’s sponsor, and the dentist who patented the instrument sterilization technology.
WBZ-TV in Boston produced an investigative piece on the legislation called “Playing Favorites.” Read or watch the story
Lueth said, “The report brought to light fact that Lorenzo Lepore, who patented the Maestro MD sterilization has long contributed to the campaigns of state senator Paul J. Donato, the bill’s sponsor. The piece also included expert opinions debunking the need for this process.”
MMEA has been fighting similar legislation about the same sterilization process since it was first introduced in 2008. MMEA contacted legislators at that time, asking them to defeat the earlier version of the bill.
Lueth said she found Woodside’s advice on opposing the issue very helpful and added, “We have learned that you never give up —until the legislation is truly stopped dead! Compromise or waiting for the best you can do is not in order. It takes persistence and a watchful eye.”
KMEA Sought Hard Data
NAfME sponsored a Music In Our Schools Month® contest in March, 2012. The Association asked state MEAs to submit advocacy activities they had been working on. While there were many worthy projects, NAfME decided KMEA had “the most exciting, creative and involved story to tell and it produced an advocacy tool and that could be replicated in other states.”
The winner of the contest received a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in March, and KMEA President Craig L. Manteuffel accepted the framed flag during NAfME’s National Assembly meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, in June.
KMEA’s submitted advocacy activity was a survey that spanned 2007–2011 and highlighted the actual number of music positions cut and the loss of funding from the music programs. An analysis showed more than 48 percent of all school districts in the state reported a loss of funding in the 2009–2010 school year. The survey also found that in the past three years, 185 music education positions had been eliminated.
Sharing Information with State Board of Education
In November 2011, the KMEA Executive Board was invited by the Kansas Board of Education Chair, David Dennis, to share information from the survey with the Kansas State Board of Education. Following that appearance, a story about the budget cuts in music was printed in the Capitol Hill Journal and later picked up by the Associated Press. In the following days, numerous local papers had begun publishing follow- up stories about the impact of budget cuts on music programs in their schools.
Manteuffel was interviewed by KSN-TV, where he shared the data from the survey. In March, 2011, KMEA leaders arranged separate visits with the Kansas Commissioner of Education, the Kansas Senate President, Kansas Governor Brownback, and other key members of the Kansas House and Senate. Although several topics were discussed, the main focus of the meetings was the 2012 Impact of Budget Cuts on Music Education survey.
He said, “The Executive Council of KMEA spoke mainly about the survey data and how the budget cuts are affecting music education in Kansas. We also talked with them about 21st century skills and how we are being proactive with our teachers, not just standing in the background.”
Photo by JeanneMarie Photography
Roz Fehr, NAfME managing editor for news, August 30, 2012. © National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)