State of the Union: Middle Class Economics and Education

Tonight, President Obama presented his sixth State of the Union address to Congress, in which one of his primary themes was his focus on “middle class economics.” He discussed issues such as raising the minimum wage, increasing access to community colleges, student loan relief, investments in new technologies, extended child care tax credits, and expanded access to healthcare and health insurance as tools for strengthening the middle class.

Noticeably lacking (other than touting the highest graduation rates and math and reading scores on record) was any mention of K-12 education. Meanwhile, re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has emerged as an immediate priority for the Senate and House education committees in the new Congress.  If passed, this new ESEA will have an enormously significant impact on access to high-quality education for our nation’s students and their entry into a more prosperous future. This lack of attention to the longer-view investment in public education within the President’s domestic policy priorities is concerning for our profession, and most of all, our students.

The draft ESEA bill presented last week by Senator Alexander sharply curtails the federal role and investment in education. We believe strongly that without increased federal support, music education and other non-tested subjects will continue to take a backseat to other disciplines. We encourage music education supporters to read the Music Education Policy Roundtable’s suggested improvements to this proposal in the areas of core subject status, accessibility, teacher evaluation, accountability, and teacher preparation. (Further detail can be found by accessing the Roundtable’s Winter 2015 ESEA Reauthorization Legislative Requests.) Join the broader minded campaign to urge Congress to ensure support for music education in the the ESEA reauthorization.

President of the United States

The President concluded his remarks tonight by calling for “a better politics” that seeks to find common ground on controversial but vital policy issues.  To use the words of his address, surely we can agree that education is the best investment we can make in our nation’s future, and that consensus can be reached that maximizes access to high-quality education for all students. To that end, we call for a new ESEA that invests in teachers, allows for fair and relevant evaluation and assessment, and supports rich curricula including music and the arts as core.

Read the full text of the State of the Union here.

Shannon Kelly, Director of Advocacy, January 20, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (