Music Technology Win in Senate Draft of Perkins Reauthorization

Music Technology Win in Senate Draft
of Perkins Reauthorization

The United States Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed its version of the Carl Perkins Act Reauthorization on June 26, 2018, with full bipartisan support. 

The passage is a key victory for music education as this version of the Perkins Act includes mention of a well-rounded education (established by Sec. 8101 of ESEA/ESSA). If passed by Congress and enacted into law, school districts would need to provide detailed information on how they plan to use their federal career and technical education funding to support, among other areas, a well-rounded education, of which music is one of the listed subjects as enumerated in law through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). NAfME has actively advocated for this inclusion so music educators can have access to these funds on the local level to support music technology and industry classes and programs, which are becoming more prevalent in schools across the country and for which there is a relevant strand in the 2014 Music Standards.

The current iteration of the bill passed by the Senate HELP Committee would require local school districts that accept Perkins funding to complete a needs assessment that includes information on how districts’ plans will ensure learning in subjects that constitute a well-rounded education connected to relevant career and technical education programs. NAfME policy staff hopes to strengthen the bill’s language by having the listing of ways Perkins funds can be spent at the local level include well-rounded education subjects. | Wavebreakmedia

The  Process Thus Far

The Senate Perkins reauthorization bill was created using the House of Representatives’ version as a base. However, there are significant differences between the two chambers’ bills. For music education, the biggest concern is that the well-rounded education language found in the Senate bill is nowhere to be found within the House bill. Education advocates have concerns with the Senate version of the bill as it allows the U.S. Secretary of Education to withhold money from districts and other agencies receiving Perkins funding if performance targets are not met. Some groups have opposed this measure, claiming that the provision is a throwback to the No Child Left Behind Act. The House version of the bill does not specify whether or not the Secretary holds such power. 

It was anticipated that the Senate Perkins bill would receive floor time, with opportunity for amendment, before the end of the legislative year. However, the unexpected retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will take up Senate time and resources. This leaves the Senate schedule uncertain. It also remains to be seen how the Senate and the House will reconcile their differences.

If the Senate passes its bill, it could either send that bill to the House to vote on it, or both sides could agree to a conference committee to reconcile their differences. In either scenario, it may be necessary for NAfME members to use grassroots efforts to maintain the well-rounded education language in a final bill. Please stay tuned. 

NAfME has heard from its members, and realizes that music teachers are evolving their curriculums and programs to meet current demands. We also know that students connect with music genres of a wide variety, and that diversifying our curricula will expand music education access and increase student participation.

To this end, it is important on a policy level to be engaged in career and technical education funding. By including the well-rounded education language in Perkins reauthorization, we are laying the groundwork for future recording engineers, composers, music producers, audio visual technicians, and home audio consultants to receive high-quality, specialized music education within their public schools supported by Perkins funds. Music technology will play a crucial role in today’s 21st century economy, and we must commit to properly educating those who wish to use new technologies in creating, enhancing, performing, and producing the music we love.

Tooshar Swain, Public Policy Advisor, July 13, 2018. © National Association for Music Education (