NAfME Honors Two Members of Congress for Spearheading STEAM Caucus

On Friday June 28, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) recognized U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici and Representative Aaron Schock, for their efforts in heading up the Congressional STEAM Caucus. The Caucus seeks to bring increased attention to and funding for arts education.

The STEAM Caucus is a bipartisan team of members of Congress that launched in February, 2013.  The caucus “aims to change the vocabulary of education to recognize the benefits of both the arts and sciences and how these intersections will benefit our country’s future generations.

Caucus members will work to increase awareness of the importance of STEAM education and explore new strategies to advocate for STEAM programs. STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.

NAfME Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Michael A. Butera thanked Bonamici and Schock, chair and co-chair of the caucus, for their support of music education. The two were recognized just prior to NAfME’s Hill Day event when more than 130 NAfME state and division leaders visited their elected officials on Capitol Hill. NAMM hosted NAFME at an orientation at the offices of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP prior to Hill visits in Washington, DC.

Members of the Music Education Policy Roundtable (MEPR)also participated.  NAfME is a founding member, along with the American String Teachers Association.

Country artist Sarah Darling also visited Capitol Hill on behalf of music education and NAfME. The Association named Darling as a recipient of its “Stand for Music” Award, in recognition of her dedication to and support of music education.

The award will be presented to Ms. Darling on Saturday, June 29, by NAfME President and Board Chair Nancy Ditmer, as part of the association’s annual National Leadership event.

Bonamici is a Democrat who represents the First Congressional District of Oregon and Shock, is a Republican from Illinois’s 18th congressional district. Representative Shock serves on the House Ways and Means Committee. Representative Bonamici is a member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce.


U.S. Representatives Discuss Personal Ties to Music Education

Speaking to the presidents of NAfME federated state associations and division leaders, Bonamici said arts education was important to her because “I grew up with music. My mother was piano teacher. My father was a drummer. Then when my kids went through school, it was the era of budget cuts and as you know, arts programs are the first to be cut. That presents a problem.

“We talk about rebuilding our economy and everyone wants that but we also need an innovative workforce. Where will we get all of those workers if music and the arts are cut?” Bonamici asked.

She urged NAfME leaders to make that point on Capitol Hill visits today, adding that support for the STEAM Caucus is bi-partisan

Schock said he too, is pleased to see bi-partisan support, adding music educators could help solidify that support for music education as part of a well-rounded education, one elected official at a time.

“Tell them you are not the fun elective, the sugar on the top. They need to know you are an integral part of a comprehensive education system … if we want to have the most qualified workforce in the world,” Schock said.

He said that members of Congress often lobby on workplace issues. They can find the people with engineering degrees but what they really want is creative candidates who can think outside the box, Schock said.

Schock said that he understands the benefits of a well-rounded education. “Without a doubt, the 12 years of public school education were enriched by the music education members of your profession provided me.”

He explained that when he was starting  fifth grade band he wanted to play the oboe but was convinced to play baritone instead. “It was a little harder to carry to school every day but, I went to become a first place All-State baritone.”

He also urged the leaders to go to their meetings armed with facts and figures to bolster the benefits of music education. NAfME advocacy staff members provide the leaders with just that kind information to take on their rounds.

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition has its champions, too. The coalition works to raise awareness about the role STEM in the “global marketplace” and gain increased federal funding for STEM education.

“We frequently discuss the importance of STEM education, but we can’t ignore the importance of engaging and educating both halves of the brain,” Bonamici said at the STEAM Caucus launch. “Creative, critical thinking leads to innovation. The integration of the arts into STEM curriculum will excite creativity in the minds of our future leaders.”

John Maeda, president of Rhode Island School of Design, urged that the visual arts be added to change the acronym   On February 14, 2013 he co-hosted the kickoff briefing for the STEAM Caucus.  The event included brief testimonials from experts in the fields of science, design, art and education.

More recently NAfME advocacy staff has engaged members of STEAM Caucus to recognize music education as one of the arts in the arts.

President Barack Obama also discussed STEM education in a January 2012 State of the Union speech.  Additionally, in July of 2012, President Obama announced the dedication of $100 million to support STEM teachers.  The STEM Education Coalition is advocating for STEM to have a central role in the upcoming reauthorization of ESEA.

Representatives from 11 states had signed on to the Caucus: Matt Cartwright (D-PA); David Cicilline (D-RI); Gerald Connolly (D-VA); Jim Langevin (D-RI); Dave Loebsack (D-IA); Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC); Jared Polis (D-CO); Tim Ryan (D-OH); Bobby Scott (D-VA); Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH); and Louise Slaughter (D-NY).

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Photo by Roz Fehr

Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, June 28, 2013. © National Association for Music Education