The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) wishes to address a number of items under consideration in the United States Congress that could impact education policy and music education across the country. Here is our Legislative Holiday Wish List:
Raise Spending Caps and Full Funding for Title IV-Part A
As the deadline to fund the federal government looms, NAfME urges members of both the House and the Senate to support a year-end spending deal that raises non-defense discretionary spending caps for FY2018. Raising said spending caps will allow congressional appropriators to improve the federal investment on education, and allocate robust funding for key education initiatives from the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including supplemental support for music education.
Initial funding proposals for FY2018 for Title IV-A remain far below the grant’s authorization level of $1.6 billion. Under this fractional funding level, the program cannot function as originally intended as a formula block grant, and will not provide districts with the proper flexibility they deserve to support their schools. A fully funded Title IV-A allocation is essential to provide all students with a full and equitable well-rounded education that includes music.
As the fiscal deadline nears, we hope Congress will greatly improve their support for Title IV-A during the conference committee process. Congress must fully fund Title IV-A so that each and every student is ensured access to an integrated, balanced education, as well as access to music education, that they need and deserve for academic and lifelong success.
Education Provisions in Tax Reform Legislation
As Congress continues the process to form a conference committee to pass tax reform, NAfME appreciates keeping the Educator Expense Deduction in the final bill. NAfME maintains its strong support for the Senate’s provision to increase the amount of the Educator Expense Deduction. While the House’s bill completely eliminated the deduction, the Senate’s legislation allows a maximum deduction of $500, doubling the rate of the previous allowable deduction. Scholastic’s most recent Teacher & Principal School Report found that on average, teachers spent $530 on classroom expenses annually. Teachers in high-poverty areas, on the other hand, spent an average of $672 a year. We urge the bill conferees to raise the deduction to the Senate bill’s levels in the final bill.
Aid for All Teachers, including Music Educators, in Higher Education Act Reauthorization
Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC-5), Chairwoman of the Education and Workforce Committee, introduced the first iteration of Higher Education Act reauthorization in the House of Representatives. While the bill may be a good first step in some areas, NAfME opposes the end of loan forgiveness for college graduates who enter public service. This program forgives federal student debt for people in the public sector after they have made 10 years’ worth of payments. Repealing this provision will discourage quality teachers from entering the profession, and this will negatively impact a student’s ability to succeed.
NAfME also objects to the proposed ending of the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, a federal program that provides money to new teachers willing to work in high-needs schools, or willing to teach subjects in desperate need of educators. Based on the U.S. Department of Education’s own documentation, 20 states in the U.S. have music teacher shortages. Congress needs to expand their support for educators entering the profession; not discourage educators by eliminating programs such as TEACH.
Furthermore, we believe that loans and grants offered in the Higher Education Act should better support Congress’ directive, through ESSA, to provide all K-12 students with a well-rounded education. Loan forgiveness and grant requirements for teachers should include educators of all well-rounded subjects, including music educators. In order to fully realize a well-rounded education for all students, we must provide the incentives necessary to bring the next generation of quality music educators into the teaching profession. As the bill moves to the House floor, it is important to make these necessary changes.
Tooshar Swain, Public Policy Advisor, December 14, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)