U.S. Dept. of Education Holds Ground-breaking "Stakeholders" Meeting on Arts Education Policy
This past week I attended a U.S. Department of Education "stakeholders" meeting on the reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The meeting was ground-breaking since it was the first time that the national arts education community had been invited to specifically address the reauthorization policy efforts. Since last June, the Department has been holding these meetings on various reform topics, typically broad and encompassing multiple sectors of the education universe. The meeting was led by Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement (OII) Jim Shelton and attended by Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development (PEPD) Carmel Martin, OII Associate Assistant Deputy Secretary Scott Pearson, and PEPD Deputy Assistant Secretary Emma Vadehra.
Held in the Department's auditorium, the meeting began with short introductory remarks by Shelton and Martin and then the arts education advocates in the audience were given time to speak. While a transcript of the meeting is expected, it will be weeks before it is available. I'll just simply say that each speaker made a thoughtful and passionate case for strengthening the arts through ESEA reauthorization. In most cases, representatives from each organization cited research or programs their members had run - or the school administrators and arts educators in the audience spoke about their schools and districts and the positive impact that arts education makes locally.
The themes presented relating to education policy were quite clear: since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2001, the arts have become greatly threatened in the classroom. With the heavy emphasis on testing and without clear support from the federal government, arts education is seen as an extra, not an essential. Many speakers mentioned the continued need for the federal Arts in Education program which is minimally funded at $40 million this year (a new grant competition round has just been announced, see this page for full details). I spoke about how for Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation and School Turnaround policies could be strengthened to support arts education. In the months to come, arts education advocates will be watching the Department closely for their ESEA proposal and preparing to further lobby Congress on arts education support.
Stay tuned to ARTSblog for more updates.