Legislative Memo: NAfME Leaders Mix Policy Discussions and Shoe Leather Advocacy

June 29, 2012

On June 25, during 2012 Music Education Week, leaders of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) discussed a number of music education policy issues.  Among them, were:

  • Maintaining the arts as a core academic subject
  • Improving teacher evaluation measures
  • Increasing classroom time for music educators

During 2011Music Education Week, (NAfME) and the American String Teachers Association announced the formalization of The Music Education Policy Roundtable (MEPR). Today, The MEPR has 17 members, including its newest, the Drum Corps International. The Roundtable provides music education advocacy with a strong, united voice.

During the 2012 Roundtable live fishbowl discussion led by Chris Woodside, assistant executive director of advocacy and public affairs, he said maintaining the arts as a core subject is key to any lobbying efforts undertaken by Roundtable members.

Mary Luehrsen director of public affairs and government relations for the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), and executive director of the NAMM Foundation, agreed, adding that reminding decision-makers that the arts are a core subject “has given us the leverage to keep a lot of music programs safe. We need to state and restate that basic principle.”

Heather Noonan, vice president for advocacy for the League of American Orchestras, added that while many lawmakers say they support music and other arts programs, “we need them to make arts education a priority. Our job is to get members of Congress to actually do something rather than just talk about it.”

Mary Luehrsen, NAMM (left); Chris Woodside, NAfME; Lynn Tuttle, SEADAE, and Mike Blakeslee, NAfME, discussed the SAEDAE white paper during the SupportMusic conference call.

NAfME leaders carried with them the 2012 MEPR legislative agenda during their visits on the Hill on June 26, and took steps to do just that. More than 110 NAfME state and division executives gathered at the law offices of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, which faces the U. S. Capitol, for their final marching orders.

They took with them a one-pager of The Roundtable’s Federal Legislative Recommendations or “asks”:

  • Music educators should be evaluated by qualified individuals utilizing 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 measure of music success, are essential.
  • Funding should be made available to all music programs in all appropriate programs in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
  • School day accessibility to music education programs should be maintained and increased throughout the United States.
  • Charter schools, consistent with all public schools, should provide students with a comprehensive education including access to sequential, standards-based music education.

While NAfME leaders climbed Capitol Hill, arts group representatives across the United States listened in on a SupportMusic Coalition teleconference broadcasted live from the Nelson Mullins Rotunda Room.

Luehrsen said the Capitol Dome viewed from the ninth-floor space “reminds us of the importance of our advocacy and the importance of bringing our joint message not only to elected officials here but also to our state capitols and to our local boards.”

“She added, “The SupportMusic Coalition supports grass roots advocacy efforts on behalf of music education.”

A large portion of the SupportMusic call centered on a white paper released by the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE), outlining the roles and responsibilities certified arts educators, certified non-arts educators, and providers of supplemental arts instruction play in providing a quality, sequential arts education for America’s K-12 students.

Scott C. Shuler, arts education specialist in the Connecticut Department of Education and immediate past-president of NAfME, said,

“Expert arts educators play an essential role in delivering the high-quality arts education that every child needs. Students benefit even more when arts educators collaborate with classroom teachers and community artists. The recommendations in this document will help policymakers and school leaders create effective arts education programs and partnerships, at a time when our children desperately need the creativity and inspiration that an arts education can provide.”

During the conference call, Lynn Tuttle, president of SAEDAE and one of the authors of the white paper, said, “The goal was to reaffirm the role music and other arts educators play in a comprehensive, sequential standards-based public school arts education.”

She said SEADAE is prepared to “engage the arts and policy communities in a vigorous discussion about the paper’s recommendations to support quality arts education across our country.”

Follow the updates on the SEADAE white paper, MEPR and music education policy issues:

Music Education Policy Roundtable

NAfME Groundswell

SupportMusic Conference Call Archive

State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE) White Paper


Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)