In our next entry in the State Success Stories series, we want to spotlight some of the work that the Alabama Music Educators Association (AMEA) has done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we all know, the outbreak has caused everyone to adjust and adapt to a new educational reality. With the financial strain on the states and guidance emerging on how schools will re-open in the coming school year, Alabama MEA leadership has taken several steps not only to ensure that music education remains well-funded and a core component of education in this new environment, but also to educate policy stakeholders and communities about the important role that music education plays in helping students cope with the stresses of the pandemic.
Working with NAfME policy staff, AMEA leadership created a Funding Toolkit to inform legislators and administrators about available funding streams to counter possible education budget cut proposals. “The majority of music positions are locally funded in Alabama,” said Rob Lyda, AL Advocacy Chair. “We wanted to connect with education leaders, let them know we exist, and offer help.” This toolkit was published in the most recent issue of their monthly magazine Ala Breve, which you can view here.
In addition to the toolkit, AMEA has been hosting weekly town hall meetings on social media, giving their members an opportunity to be informed and ask questions of AMEA and state educational leadership. This past week, they hosted Eric Mackey, State Superintendent of Schools, for a robust conversation about coming back to school post-coronavirus. During the town hall, Mackey stated his support for music education as an “essential” and integral part of the plan to bring students back to school: “Mental health was the number one topic that people were talking about in Montgomery . . . we essentially have a mental health crisis in our state . . . Music is one of those things, that has proven research and a proven scientific basis for improving people’s mental health. I think one of the things we can do . . . is we have to expand, continue to expand, exposure and opportunities in the arts, particularly music.”
AMEA has also focused on using social media to give students, parents, and members a voice. On March 31, AMEA hosted a virtual Hill Day on social media to encourage people to share success stories and reasons why music education is important. Using the hashtag #ala4musiced hundreds of music teachers, students, and their parents shared with a larger audience the importance of music education to people in Alabama. “We encouraged our membership not only to use the #ala4musiced hashtag on March 31, but also to highlight any successes throughout the year,” said Lyda. “Probably the most important use of this hashtag will be by students. Showing state and local leaders the importance of music education by elevating student voices is a powerful advocacy tool.”
This blog series draws attention to the great work our affiliated state MEAs do on a regular basis. During the pandemic, state level advocacy for music education has become more important than ever, and many states have more than stepped up to the challenge. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your state’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we just might spotlight you in the next post! Remember: We are all in this together!
Matt Barusch, State Advocacy Engagement Manager, June 3, 2020. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)