The Support Music Coalition, led by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and the National Association for Music Merchants (NAMM), reacted quickly when the Lansing, Michigan School Board voted to cut music, art and physical education elementary teaching positions from the 2013–14 budget. The district wants to replace the teaching positions with “consultants.”
On March 29, Support Music.com issued a strongly worded statement that says in part:
“On behalf of the SupportMusic Coalition, we, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), strongly advise the Lansing School Board and Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul to carefully review the concerns of the greater Michigan arts education community regarding the recent decision to cut music, art and physical education elementary teaching positions from next year’s budget.
“Put simply, this is the removal of highly qualified, certified educators in favor of contract teachers who will operate under the guise of arts integration. Those of us who work within this world know that arts learning as an integrated subject is just not the same as standards-based, sequential learning. We urge you to reconsider this decision.
“Such a decision would be, perhaps, understandable in light of the fiscal woes that currently beset many of our nation’s urban areas. It is, however, neither understandable nor defensible in terms of our collective responsibility to provide a full, balanced education to all of our children.
“A broad base of research exists demonstrating the many benefits of music and arts in student learning and achievement. As is noted in the Partnership for 21st Century Learning Skills Arts Skills Map, arts education is powerful preparation for college, career, and a fulfilling life. When delivered by certified educators, these benefits are most substantially gleaned; hence, the lifelong learning impact is greatest. Quite simply put, such dividends are far less likely to be realized when delivery takes place via arts-integration or artist-in-residence programs.
“Arts instruction by certified teachers is, in fact, a vital requirement of a successful learning experience, and simply cannot be equaled by the type of stopgap methods presently being touted in Lansing.”
Chris Woodside, NAfME assistant executive director, Center for Advocacy and Public Affairs, and Mary Luehrsen, executive of the NAMM Foundation signed the letter.
Updates on the issue will be posted on NAfME’s Groundswell advocacy site.
In Other State Action
2013 has been a busy season for legislation of this kind on the state level, too. General assemblies and state legislatures have been considering legislation that, were they to become law, would have the power to authorize, grant, declare or restrict various activities in their states.
Several NAfME federated state associations have taken action in recent weeks to oppose legislation they believed would be harmful to their members or to music education as whole.
“In recent months, several state MEAs have taken tremendous leadership roles in responding to challenging legislative dynamics, activating their membership bases to play active parts in advocacy campaigns, and building capacity to become far more nimble in light of budget cuts and another threats to programs,”Woodside said.
This kind of progress represents the ‘grassroots’ approach to advocacy that NAfME believes so strongly in, and that we feel is so vital to keeping our family of associations and music education healthy, all across the country,” he added.
Here are some examples:
In March, Paige Rose, president of Arkansas Music Educators Association, alerted NAfME to a bill being introduced to committee that month calling for students to take either art OR music in grades 1-6, as well as grades 7-8, instead of both visual art and music.
The bill was sponsored by Arkansas Senator Bryan King. Supporters said it was intended as a way to increase autonomy for local schools as well as provide a chance for students to focus more rigorously on one or another area of the arts.
However, the bill did not guarantee that time currently mandated for both areas would be maintained under the new requirements. Therefore, students were actually at risk of reduced class time for arts study should the legislation have passed.
In response, ArkMEA created an action alert via their Facebook page, and submitted letters to relevant legislators urging them to oppose this legislation. In addition, NAfME submitted a letter to Senator King and members of the Budget Committee urging them to work with ArkMEA to revise the bill’s language, so as to guarantee that, at a minimum, the current level of art and music class time would be maintained.
NAfME also launched a corresponding advocacy-support campaign, using the Association’s Groundswell Network. On March 12, ArkMEA received a response from Senator King stating that the bill has been deferred for the time being, pending further discussions with the MEA and other stakeholders about changes in its wording.
On January 21, the Washington Music Educators Association (WMEA) was alerted to a bill that was introduced to the House Education Committee that day. The bill would have appropriated grant funds allowing kindergarten and first-grade classes to purchase a music curriculum program that would qualify as early-learning music education. The bill stated that the program could be used to bring music education to more children and could be facilitated by teachers without any specialized music training.
Bruce Caldwell, WMEA executive director, said the state association “reached out to its membership and other arts-centric organizations urging them to write letters, send emails and make phone calls to legislators on the committee.”
On January 29, WMEA staff testified against the bill in question. Additionally, WMEA staff attended the arts lobbying day on February 6 at the state capitol to meet with legislators in person. “In spite of our efforts, the bill passed the committee along party lines on February 15 and was referred to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education,” Caldwell said.
Following that action, WMEA spoke at the public hearings before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. “This time, staff and members of WMEA raised concerns about the cost of the program outlined in the bill and suggested there were several other programs that would have less of a fiscal impact. While at the state capitol, WMEA took the time to meet with legislators in person to discuss the importance of music education taught by highly qualified music teachers,” Caldwell said.
In the end, WMEA’s efforts led to the defeat of the bill. The House Appropriations Subcommittee did not vote and the bill died there.
In Wyoming, the issue was the Hathaway Scholarship program, which is designed to provide an incentive for Wyoming students to prepare for and pursue post-secondary education within the State of Wyoming. The program consists of four separate merit scholarships, each with specific eligibility requirements, and a need-based scholarship for eligible students.
The Hathaway Success Curriculum required for honors and performance level scholarships, originally required:
- 4 years each of math, science and language arts
- 3 years of social studies
- 2 years of sequenced foreign language, one of which could be taken in 8th grade. Those requirements stand.
The new requirements, which take effect in the 2014-2015 school year add two more years which may be taken in any one of the following three content areas:
- Fine and Performing Arts
- Career Technical Education
- Foreign Language.
However, it does not have to be the same foreign language as the original two years, nor does it have to be sequenced—it would be simply four years total.
For the Opportunity and Provisional level scholarships, the original requirements included four years each of math, science and language arts and three years of social studies and demonstration of proficiency in foreign language. The requirements for math, science, language arts and social studies stand, and the bill makes the following change and addition:
- Removes the proficiency requirement in foreign language; and
- Requires two years in one of the following three content areas: Fine and Performing Arts, Career Technical Education, Foreign Language.
The Wyoming Music Educators Association worked with other educators and arts groups to secure the change in requirements.
Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, April 5, 2013. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)