Legislative Memo: Arts and Arts Education Issues in the Democratic and Republican Party Platforms

With the political conventions concluded and the balloon drops and acceptance speeches out of the way, focus shifts to the November 6 presidential election. NAfME studied the Democratic and Republican platforms to see what they say (or don’t say) about arts and education reform.

However, Chris Woodside, assistant executive director for advocacy and public affairs at the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), said that “party platforms are, to a large extent, convention ‘window dressing,’ and they often do not accurately reflect the views of the nominees.  Nevertheless, they are a legitimate jumping off point for gaining a better understanding of each party’s general analysis of the issues.”

Woodside’s assessment of the two platforms from an arts education and education standpoint is as follows:

The Democratic Platform

  • A significant portion of the Platform is devoted to discussing investment in education.  STEM, Pell, and affordable education are all themes that are prioritized.
  • The Democratic Platform includes the following statement on arts and culture:  “Democrats are proud of our support for arts funding and education.  We are committed to continuing the policies and programs that have already done so much for our creative arts industry and economy.  Investment in the arts strengthens our communities and contributes to our nation’s rich cultural heritage.  We will continue to support public funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and for programs providing art and music education in primary and secondary schools.  The entire nation prospers when we protect and promote the unique and original artistic and cultural contributions of the women and men who create and preserve our nation’s heritage.”


Read the Democratic Platform


The Republican Platform

  • The Platform calls for “Reining in Out-of-Control Spending, Balancing the Budget, and Ensuring Sound Monetary Policy.”  It also continues to support a call for a balanced budget constitutional amendment “requiring a super-majority for any tax increase, with exceptions for only war and national emergencies, and imposing a cap limiting spending to the historical average percentage of GDP so that future Congresses cannot balance the budget by raising taxes.”
  • On sequestration, no mention whatsoever is made of the impact that these cuts will have on nondefense programs, including education funding.  The Platform calls for eliminating the defense sequester, but nothing more:  “Sequestration—which is severe, automatic, across-the-board cuts in defense spending over the next decade—of the nation’s military budget would be a disaster for national security, imperiling the safety of our servicemen and women, accelerating the decline of our nation’s defense industrial base, and resulting in the layoff of more than one million skilled workers. Opposition to sequester is bipartisan; even the current Secretary of Defense has said the cuts will be devastating to America’s military.  Yet the current President supported sequestration, signed it into law, and has threatened to veto Republican efforts to prevent it.”
  • STEM learning is prioritized throughout the education content of the Platform (a similarity between the GOP and DNC platforms); however, the arts are not mentioned.

Read the Republican Platform


The NAfME Advocacy and Public Affairs staff will monitor education and arts issues during the U.S. Presidential campaign this fall. Follow those and other developments.


Roz Fehr, NAfME managing editor for news, September 13, 2012. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)