NAfME Public Policy Wish List
As we look forward to 2021, NAfME’s federal public policy wish list details legislative and administrative actions that would benefit music education in the coming year.
COVID-19 Relief Package
As federal lawmakers continue negotiating on COVID relief and economic stimulus, it is crucial that Congress appropriate enough funds to address state losses in their education budgets. While Congress’s current negotiated number of $82 billion falls well short of NAfME’s request of $200 billion, we hope this will be just the beginning of funding that helps alleviate education funding losses that states are experiencing.
Additional funding is also necessary to address the inequities of the “Homework Gap” felt by students who lack home internet access, an issue that has been magnified during the pandemic. Research suggests between 15 and 16 million K–12 students in the United States are unable to log online for distance learning, and that students from rural communities and racial minority groups are disproportionately affected.
School Guidance during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Students need music and arts education more than ever during the pandemic. Music and arts programs support students not only through providing academic rigor and outlets for creative expression but also by fostering healthy social and emotional learning environments and positive school climates. Some states have issued guidance that unnecessarily forbids in-person music education, while others have issued guidelines supported by the International Performing Arts Aerosol Study. NAfME supports the latter approach and will continue to encourage state and federal agencies to produce guidelines that include mitigation strategies that allow in-person music activities to be carried out safely. Such strategies are outlined in our Fall 2020 Guidance, created in collaboration with the National Federation of State High School Associations. Music educators want to offer the safest instruction possible so all students can learn and grow their knowledge, understanding, and love of music and the arts.
This includes funding in Title I-A, Title II-A, and Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This funding has been important to music and arts programs across the country, and we hope the new administration and Congress will work to increase these funding levels. Proper data collection, reporting, and assessment are necessary to evaluate well-rounded programs. NAfME will continue to advocate for the U.S. Department of Education to implement stronger data collection for well-rounded programs through Consolidated State Performance Reports and the Fast Response Survey System.
Reinstate the NAEP Arts Assessment
Prior to its removal from the National Assessment of Educational Project’s (NAEP) 10-year schedule, the NAEP arts assessment stood as the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what U.S. students know and can do in music and visual arts. We hope Congress will appropriate adequate funding to restore the arts assessment in the short term. In the long term, we hope lawmakers will enact statutory language that makes the NAEP arts assessment a mandatory part of the Nation’s Report Card.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that all students, regardless of ability, be provided a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Congress authorized a federal investment to provide 40% of the additional cost to educate students with disabilities who were previously excluded from the public schools. Unfortunately, this promise has never been realized, and the current federal contribution only amounts to roughly 13% of the expense. We urge Congress to live up to its word and fully fund IDEA to better support special education professionals and the students they serve, support additional training for all school staff, including music educators, and reduce the financial strain on school districts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for school infrastructure as ventilation system upgrades or improvements are necessary in many schools to increase the delivery of clean air and dilute potential contaminants in the school. Once the pandemic ends, infrastructure funding will continue to be necessary so children can have the highest quality learning experience possible. This should include funds for music and arts facilities so that arts education can be conducted in settings that protect students’ health and safety.
Higher Education Act Reauthorization
The current iteration of the Higher Education Act (HEA) does not acknowledge a “well-rounded education” or its teachers in its teacher preparation provisions. HEA reauthorization must signal to Institutions of Higher Learning (IHE) that strong preparation programs for well-rounded subjects are important as a support for ESSA’s call for a well-rounded education.
HEA reauthorization must also address the wide racial disparities that exist in the teacher workforce—a problem that is prominent in music education. Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) have the longest, most significant track record of preparing diverse educators, equipping them for long term success in the teaching profession. We hope to work with MSIs and lawmakers to request adequate funding for programs like the Hawkins Centers for Excellence, which are designed to increase the number of minority educators by strengthening teacher education programs at MSIs.
2020 has been a difficult year for music educators and students. The music community has faced obstacles brought forward by hybrid and distance learning, as well as looming program cuts across the country. Yet, we end 2020 truly inspired by your commitment to teach and make music in new and creative ways. Your dedication reminds us that music education will not just endure but will become even more meaningful for students moving forward.
The NAfME public policy staff thanks you for your dedication, advocacy, and leadership. We look forward to our work together in 2021 as we continue to pursue high quality music education opportunities for all students.
NAfME Public Policy Staff, December 18, 2020. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)