Blog Posts for advocate

My Turn: For a Humane Tax Reform

Posted by Mr. John R. Killacky, Aug 21, 2013 0 comments

John R. Kilacky John R. Killacky

 

Vermont, like many states, is considering comprehensive tax reform. Committees in the Vermont Senate and House developed proposals last legislative session and systemic changes seem high on the agenda for the 2014 session. Key components focus on increasing the portion of personal income that is taxed by capping deductions, including charitable contributions. If passed, this revision to the tax code would negatively affect the work of nonprofit organizations statewide. Vermont’s robust nonprofit sector comprises nearly 4,000 human, social service, educational, religious, and cultural organizations, ranking us No. 1 per capita in the nation. The Vermont Community Foundation reported in 2010 that these agencies generate $4.1 billion in annual revenue and represent 18.7 percent of our gross state product. Nonprofits deliver critical services that government alone cannot provide: sheltering, caring for, and feeding those less fortunate; early childhood education; and cultural enrichment are just a few examples. Nonprofits include schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, community health clinics, workforce development centers, mentoring programs, homeless shelters, food banks, theaters, and galleries. Some focus on specific populations: providing safe spaces for women, LGBT youth, refugees, the disabled, and migrant workers. They range from small, volunteer-run groups to huge universities. Although more than 80 percent of Vermont’s nonprofits operate with budgets of less than $250,000 each year. By delivering mission-related programs, nonprofits improve lives and transform communities. Investing in early intervention is more cost-effective than dealing with societal dysfunction later in life. Food and shelter vs. homelessness, after-school tutoring vs. illiteracy, involved children vs. disengaged teens, job skills training vs. unemployment, community vs. isolation — consider the alternatives.

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Teaching Championship

Posted by Erin Gough, Jul 23, 2013 4 comments

Erin Gough Erin Gough

A friend of mine recently graduated from one of Pennsylvania’s state universities with a bachelor’s degree in art education. When she walked across that stage to Pomp and Circumstance, she had proven that she had learned everything she needed to teach young minds all the skills they needed to create breathtaking works of art and to think through all the important steps of the art-making process.

After completing the requisite coursework, surviving long hours of student teaching, and passing the Praxis in her course area, the State of Pennsylvania gave her a certificate that showed she was qualified to stand in front of a classroom of students eager to discover.

But what she didn’t learn was exactly where all of those requirements came from. How did her University gain accreditation?  What are the priorities of the school district that is hiring her? Who is responsible for hiring the person in the State Department of Education that can serve a resource when she has concerns about state standards or a new teacher evaluation program? Who determines how much professional education is necessary to remain certified?  Who determines how state money is allocated across and within school districts?

The answer to all these questions vary from state-to-state, but in every case, these decisions should be informed by the voices of those in the classroom every day, the teachers themselves.

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The Congressional Meat Grinder Cranks to Life

Posted by Narric Rome, Jun 24, 2013 4 comments

Narric Rome Narric Rome

Ever since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) authorization formally ended in 2007, Congress has been trying to reauthorize it, but with very little success. You remember NCLB? It passed Congress with whopping margins of 381-41 in the House and 87-10 in the Senate and President Bush signed it into law with big smiles from education champions like Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and House committee leaders John Boehner (R-OH) and George Miller (D-CA). That was then.

Since then, NCLB has been attacked each year by education advocates on all sides and the Obama Administration has gone so far as to grant waivers to 37 states allowing them to opt out of many of the law’s regulations, which will remain in place until the law is reauthorized. It’s been sad as education leaders, in and out of Congress, proclaim the “urgent” need to end the labeling of failing schools, to curb the “unintended consequences” that have been a fundamental problem with NCLB. Years have passed without even a floor vote on replacement legislation.

I’ve known Capitol Hill staff who were hired to work on the reauthorization (now referred to as the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA)) who have given up waiting and moved to jobs off the Hill.

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Candidates Weighing in on Arts Education

Posted by Doug Israel, Jun 21, 2013 2 comments

Doug Israel Doug Israel

After years of school budget cuts due to the economic downturn, and a decade of No Child Left Behind-inspired education policies, there is a movement afoot in districts across the country to reinvigorate the school day with a rich and engaging curriculum.

Parents, students, and educators have been beating the drum about the narrowed curriculum and are making the case to expand access to arts, music, foreign languages, science, and other core subjects that have been marginalized in schools in recent years. Now candidates to be mayor in the country’s largest school district are weighing in on what arts education would look like under their leadership.

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A Nation at Risk: 30 Years Later

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen, May 01, 2013 0 comments

Kristen Engebretsen Kristen Engebretsen

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves...We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.” ~ from A Nation at Risk

Last Friday I attended an event at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute looking at the impact of the report released back in 1983, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform. According to the Fordham Institute’s website:

“Thirty years ago, A Nation at Risk was released to a surprised country. Suddenly, Americans woke up to learn that SAT scores were plummeting and children were learning a lot less than before. This report became a turning point in modern U.S. education history and marked the beginning of a new focus on excellence, achievement, and results.”

The report language itself called for many sensible reforms, including more instructional time, higher standards for courses and content, stringent high school graduation requirements, and demanding college entrance requirements.

But the sound bite that came out of the report was that we have a “desperate need for increased support for the teaching of mathematics and science.” And, "We are raising a new generation of Americans that is scientifically and technologically illiterate."

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Arts Education Advocates Must Be AT the Table Before We End Up ON It

Posted by Erin Gough, Apr 23, 2013 0 comments

Erin Gough Erin Gough

It has been an exciting few weeks for arts and arts education professionals and advocates in the nation’s capital.

After a week of activities hosted by the Arts Education Partnership, Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network, Emerging Arts Leaders at American University and Americans for the Arts’ State Arts Action Network, training for Arts Advocacy Day began on April 8 and we were off to the races to meet with our congressmen and women all day on April 9.

Quite honestly, by the time I headed home, I expected to be totally wiped out—overloaded with information and overwhelmed by the situation at hand. Instead, it felt like the more time I was able to spend with such passionate people, the more energized and inspired I became.

People do not work with students, schools, community organizations, or become advocates because they are passive. They do it because they see a need to ensure arts opportunities for all of America’s students, but they know that the annual Arts Advocacy Day activities are only a small part of the work that needs to be done.

Coming down to Washington to learn about and discuss federal issues is a change of pace for me, and for most of us who work at the state and local levels.

It is absolutely important to learn about, and try to influence, federal education issues that impact the arts such as the reauthorization status of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Delayed. Again. Still.), Race to the Top requirements (which require teacher effectiveness evaluations for all subjects, including the arts), and No Child Left Behind waivers (which allow for more flexibility at the state level to pursue changes in graduation requirements and assessments).

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