As we all approach the end of the year, we at NAfME would like to pause for a moment and take stock of everything our states and members have accomplished throughout the year. 2019 was a big year, with a lot of developments at both the state and federal level. It’s amazing how much we can accomplish in a year, and taking a moment to recognize that is important, because we are going to accomplish even more in the next.
This year was a very busy and productive year for the states, rife with wins for music education. Teacher salary raises were passed into law in at least 15 states, with other states either still considering them or with those bills sitting on Governors’ desks. Massachusetts and Alabama increased education funding for the 2020 fiscal year, while Utah passed a law in its special legislative session that would slash education funding by millions of dollars. Working directly with state music education associations (MEA) in Maine, South Dakota, and West Virginia, NAfME provided advocacy consulting and helped these MEAs identify and train passionate music education advocates.
Many of our state MEAs made progress and accomplishments in protecting music education in their communities. At the state level, bills were introduced: in Florida, to continue funding the Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot program; in New York, to make music a core part of the K–12 curriculum; and in Wisconsin, to make music and the arts a core data point on the school district report cards. At the local level, Milwaukee Public Schools was able to bring more music teachers to their school district and will now begin to hire 85 new music educators over the next five years.
Many state MEAs were recognized for their advocacy efforts in 2019. Five states were awarded State Advocacy Award grants from the Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation for a wide variety of projects. Thanks to CMA Foundation’s generosity, West Virginia will be starting their own statewide Advocacy Leadership Force (ALF) network; Kansas will be starting a new advocacy centric website and training portal; and Wisconsin will use funds to address diversity, equity, inclusion, and access in music education. Additionally, Nebraska will create its first Hill Day, and Nevada will begin a new statewide advocacy campaign. Finally, for their advocacy efforts and ingenuity in creating virtual advocacy resources for their membership to utilize, Florida MEA was presented the NAfME 2019 Excellence in Advocacy Award.
2019 also saw education elevated as an issue at the national level, with several NAfME priorities picking up more support along the way. Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 federal appropriations included increases to the well-rounded programs NAfME advocates for—namely Title I-A, Title II-A, and Title IV-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Guarantee Access to Arts and Music Education (GAAME) Act was reintroduced into both chambers of Congress by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY-7) and Senator Jon Tester (MT). The House of Representatives also unveiled its newest proposal for the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization, dubbed the “College Affordability Act,” which would support efforts of teacher preparation programs to equip a more diverse and culturally responsive teaching workforce and provide modest relief to teachers holding student loan debt.
The new year presents opportunities to build on these accomplishments. Congress will begin considering spending levels for FY21, and NAfME will continue to encourage appropriators to fully-fund well-rounded programs, especially the Title IV-A Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant. We also hope Congress continues its push toward a bipartisan HEA reauthorization. While we wait to see what the Senate proposes, NAfME will advocate for the legislation to be responsive to ESSA’s establishment of a well-rounded education, include House provisions related to teacher diversity, and be as equitable as possible in provisions addressing student loan forgiveness.
On behalf of NAfME, congratulations to all our federated MEAs on their hard work in 2019. If your association accomplished something that you would like to be recognized, be sure to email State Advocacy Engagement Manager Matt Barusch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to 2020, it appears that states will be even busier.
Matt Barusch, State Advocacy Engagement Manager, December 30, 2019. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)