On June 29, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) presented the Arkansas Music Educators Association (ArkMEA) with the 2013 NAfME Advocacy Award. The award was presented during NAfME’s 2013 National Leadership Assembly, which is being held, June 29-30 in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
In announcing the award, Shannon Kelly, NAfME director, Advocacy Capacity Building and Communications, said, “We want to recognize not only specific achievements, but a demonstrated commitment to building advocacy capacity and making strides in using resources available to leverage advocacy efforts.”
Kelly said several states “did remarkable things this year in promoting the cause of music education,” but said Arkansas was one that had not previously been at the forefront of national advocacy.
She added, “We actually think that is significant, because it highlights the fact that any state team, no matter the size, can really make an impact on public policy with the energy and commitment to do so.
In March, Paige Rose, president of ArkMEA, alerted NAfME to a bill sponsored by Arkansas Senator Bryan King. It called for students to take either art or music in grades 1–6, as well as grades 7–8, instead of both visual art and music (as in existing legislation).
Kelly said the bill, which was introduced in the Arkansas State Legislature, was intended as a way to increase autonomy for local schools, and to provide a chance for students to focus more rigorously on one or another area of the arts.
However, “the bill did not guarantee that time currently mandated for both areas would be maintained under the new requirements. Therefore, students were actually at risk of reduced class time for arts study should the legislation have passed,” Kelly said.
In response, ArkMEA
- Created an action alert via their Facebook page
- Submitted letters to relevant legislators urging them to oppose this legislation.
In addition, NAfME submitted a letter to Senator King and members of the Budget Committee, urging them to work with ArkMEA to revise the bill language, so as to guarantee that, at a minimum, the current level of art and music class time would be maintained.
NAfME also launched a corresponding advocacy-support campaign, using its Groundswell Network.
Paige said the response to the campaign was “overwhelming!”
Not long after that activity, ArkMEA received a response from Senator King that the bill had been deferred for the time being, pending further discussions with the MEA and other stakeholders about changes in the bill’s wording.
“We congratulate our colleagues at ArkMEA for their quick and effective response. This experience is a wonderful example of fast moving, collaborative advocacy work. ArkMEA was well-informed of the stakes and activated its base to respond,” Kelly said.
NAFME believes advocacy not only a state-level responsibility, but an individual one as well. When NAfME announced its Share Your Story campaign, music teacher Barry Bates and his colleagues in Marion, Ark., created a writing project related to Share Your Story.
Shortly after the campaign launched NAfME was excited to receive nearly 200 stories, written by the students themselves, in support of music education! Kelly said “It helped get the campaign off to a roaring start. This kind of effort also demonstrates what is possible when one individual is inspired—we can all make things happen for music education at the policy level.”
Kelly said, “For these efforts, we are proud to present this year’s advocacy award to Paige Rose, President; and Mike White, ArkMEA executive director. Congratulations!”
Photo by Roz Fehr
Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, June 30, 2013. © National Association for Music Education