In June, more than 100 leaders of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) spent a day on Capitol Hill meeting with Members of Congress and their staff members. It was the largest group ever for the annual visits.
Chris Woodside, NAfME assistant executive director for advocacy and public affairs, said there was a new urgency and commitment to the cause this year.
He told the leaders, “We are standing at the brink of a very important moment for our cause. As music education advocates, you have all taken tremendous steps in your movement to protect the profession of music education, which you hold dear, to ensure the next generation of students has access to certified music education in America’s schools.”
To that end, Woodside said that the leaders are moving beyond meet-and greet-type meetings to focus more on issues of substance. During Hill visits this year, the leaders used the 2012 Federal Legislative Agenda of the Music Education Policy Roundtable (MEPR) to talk with members of Congress and their staffers.
NAfME and the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) founded MEPR, which now has 17 members. The Roundtable’s Policy Mandate is to ensure that Congress maintains the status of the arts as a core academic subject in any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
The MEPR recommendations state
- Music educators should be EVALUATED by qualified individuals utilizing reliable measures germane to their field.
- The U.S. Department of Education should collect RESEARCH to support the field of music education.
- ACCOUNTABILITY provisions, which include a measurement of music success, are essential.
- FUNDING should be made available to music programs in all appropriate ESEA-authorized programs.
- School day ACCESSIBILITY to music education programs should be maintained and increased across the country.
- CHARTER SCHOOLS, consistent with all public schools, should provide students with a comprehensive education, including access to sequential, standards-based music education.
Here are the highlights of a few of the June Capitol Hill visits:
From NAfME President-Elect Glenn E. Nierman
Nierman is on the faculty of the University of Nebraska School of Music. He said,
“My first stop (along with Judy Bush, President of the Nebraska Music Educators Association, Lance Nielsen, NAfME North Central Division President Elect) was the office of Senator Ben Nelson. He is very influential on the Hill. If anything comes up …with the Elementary & Secondary Education Act in the months remaining, he would likely be sympathetic to our cause. We met with Robin, one of his staff –and a former clarinet player! She seemed genuinely interested in our “asks.” She did not offer much hope that the Senator could do anything to influence the Department of Education, but changing STEM to STEAM seemed to resonate with her.” (STEM is the acronym for a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curriculum. NAfME and its arts education partners advocate adding an “A” for the arts to that acronym as part of a well-rounded curriculum.)
“Next we went to the office of Senator Mike Johanns. We met with the Senator himself. He patched us via Skype to have his aide from his Kearney, Nebraska, office, who advises him on educational issues, join us for the conversation. I would say that the Senator seemed to understand the importance of having the arts continue as a core subject in any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).”
From NAfME Immediate Past President Scott C. Shuler
Shuler, the Arts Education specialist in the Connecticut State Department of Education, visited members of Congress as part of a six-member Connecticut delegation. He reported,
“Senator Richard Blumenthal was interested in ‘bottom-line’ indicators, which we said would be instructional time with certified music teachers – we explained that classroom teachers do not have arts training – or better yet, music achievement data from assessments, which would require funding. Blumenthal spent a surprising amount of time with our group.
“Throughout these conversations we were joined by his legislative assistant and education person Meg Benner, a former elementary teacher who seemed sympathetic to the need for a balanced curricula. She expressed gratitude and seemed impressed that we were talking about balanced curriculum that includes the arts vs. just arguing narrowly for our own content area and an earmarked ‘cut’ of the “well-rounded subjects” funding pie, as most associations who approach her do. She took notes on our suggestions to require reporting in all core subjects under Titles I and II, as well as some other suggestions we made.”
From Reta R. Phifer, executive director of the North Carolina Music Educators Association
Phifer visited Capitol Hill along with NCMEA President Sonja Williams, President-Elect Richard Holmes, and Southern Division President-Elect Maribeth Yoder-White to discuss the legislative agenda points. Their visits included
- Representative Patrick McHenry, from the Tenth District
- Legislative Correspondent, Michelle Jelnicky in Representative Sue Wilkins Myrick’s office, Ninth district.
- Senior Legislative Assistant, Kate Roetzer in David E. Price’s office. He represents the Fourth District
From Amanda Lippert, Past President Hawai`i Music Educators Association
Lippert is on the faculty of the music school of the Panahou School in Honolulu. She reported,
“I had three meetings on Capitol Hill. It seems Hawai’i’s music education struggles are more at the state level than at the national level. Our Senators and Representatives support arts (and music) in the education of every child.
“I had the pleasure of meeting with Senator Daniel Inouye in his office inside the U.S. Capitol Building. It was incredibly inspirational to hear him speak of the importance of music in his own life and how strongly he believes it should be provided to every one of Hawai`i’s children. He is surely an advocate of music in our schools.
“I also met with staff members of Representatives Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa. Hirono has resources regarding Federal grant money for education. Hirono sends out a grants newsletter with federal grant opportunities, and he suggested that Hawaii music educators sign up for the newsletter. “
Follow NAfME’s continuing advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill at http://advocacy.nafme.org/. For example, the page has Twitter and Facebook feeds about visits that members of the Maryland Music Educators Association visits to Capitol Hill on August 8.
Roz Fehr, NAfME managing editor for news, August 16. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)