The California Music Educators Association Takes A Stand: Spend New Education Funding on a Sequential Music Education



Stand for Music


On August 10, the California Music Educators Association (CMEA) issued an important statement on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Education. CMEA President Michael Stone says “as a result of Governor Brown’s new Local Control Funding Formula, California now has the opportunity to provide all students with a sequential, standards-based education in music and the arts.” 


CMEA is a federated state association of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). In June, CMEA received the NAfME Excellence in Advocacy Award, for coalition-building efforts, and for having a highly-focused legislative agenda. CMEA works with 10 other arts education associations in Stand Up 4 Music, a coalition of Californians who advocate for music education. Their work includes a State Capitol Hill Day where educators speak with lawmakers about the need for music education to be a vital part of a comprehensive education.


CMEA President Michael D. Stone (left); Musician and Music Education Supporter Kenny G, and CMEA President-Elect Scott Hedgecock pause  Stand Up 4 Music Day. Photo courtesy of CMEA



Stone was asked to discuss the Position Statement, and why CMEA believes California education should powered with STEAM:


Q: What prompted CMEA to create the statement? California is definitely a place where the arts and technology coexist on a regular basis.

A: In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13, significantly reducing funding for schools.  At that time, many school music programs were cut or significantly reduced to balance budgets.  In some cases, arts providers filled the gap caused by cuts in the music teacher ranks.  While arts providers play an important role in arts education, they cannot take the place of credentialed teachers.  Today, new record funding-levels for Pre-K-12 education exists in California, as a result of Governor Brown’s new Local Control Funding Formula.  California now has the opportunity to provide all students with a sequential, standards-based education in music and the arts.  CMEA’s STEAM Position Statement clarifies that arts integration models, often supported by arts providers, are only viable strategies when paired with foundational learning in the arts content area, taught by qualified teachers.  We believe that this is critical when looking at STEAM models.


Q: How was the statement written? How did the process work? Written by your state’s or was there also input from members? 

A: CMEA received strong support from [NAfME Assistant Executive Director, Center for Advocacy and Constituency Engagement] Chris Woodside as it dealt with an ill-conceived arts integration plan proposed in the Los Angeles Unified School District last spring. 

As a result of conversations with Mr. Woodside and California music education leaders, it became clear that many school district leaders and the community members needed guidance as to what defines foundational arts education.  For example, how is arts education delivered by a professional educator different than an experience taking a field trip to a symphony concert?  Clearly arts education is standards-based learning over time.  Arts activities, while enriching, are not enough.  There must be a foundational program on which to build connections in learning.  This statement was written by California Music Educators Association (CMEA) leaders with input from NAfME Staff.  The final document was reviewed and adopted by the CMEA Board of Directors at its August 2014 board meeting.


Q:  CMEA advocates very strongly for music education in California. Will you use this statement in your lobbying efforts? 

A: Absolutely.  I recently saw a job posting from a school district that indicated it was looking for a “music teacher” to implement its program.  But, the position was paid hourly, and the “teacher” did not have to have a professional license.  It’s this type of situation that warrants CMEA intervening to educate administrators.  Education in music must be implemented by credentialed teachers who have the expertise to provide the rigor and depth of knowledge necessary for foundational learning to take place.  Clearly a school district would not hire a math teacher who was not credentialed to teach in that content area. It should be no different for a music teacher.


Q:  Do you think the language in your statement would be applicable in other states? 

A: Yes.  Arts integration models are popping up throughout the nation.  I believe that it’s important to identify how foundational learning in the arts differs from arts integration models.


Q:  CMEA won NAfME’s Advocacy Award this year. Has that prompted any changes in the way you plan to reach out to lawmakers. Do you think it gives you any more clout ? Or do you not need that because you’ve done such a good job already.

A:  It is clear to me that our collective vision for music education advocacy in California is on the right track.  We have such potential for moving forward policy with the vision that all students must have access to a first-class education in music.  Too often, in the past, there has been a lack of focus and strategy in reaching our goals for music education advocacy.  Now, the CMEA-led Stand Up 4 Music Coalition has provided the infrastructure to facilitate music education advocacy in Sacramento for many years to come.  Our work is steadfast.  We have a clear picture of where we are going.  Now, we push forward!


Read CMEA’s complete position statement 

NAfME’s Position on Steam: Stem vs Steam: A look at Half-Brain Teaching


Roz Fehr, NAfME Communications Content Developer,  August, 21, 2014. © National Association for Music Education (