For Arts Professionals in the Know
What do musical chairs, speed dating, and crowd sourcing have to do with arts research? Well, on Day 2 of Americans for the Arts’ National Convention in June, co-hosted by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC), Randy Cohen, AFTA’s Vice-President for Research and Policy, and I, found out.
Context: We knew that arts researchers and policy wonks from arts service organizations, academia, consultancies, and foundations would be among the 1,000 convention attendees coming to Pittsburgh. Randy and I also knew that opportunities for researchers and wonks (and geeks, too!) to gather in one place and explore issues connecting research, policy, and advocacy were, at best, rare. So we invited 40 such folks to do just that!
Format: In the lobby of Bricolage, a small, progressive theater in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, four groups of 10 chairs each were divided by topic--Producing Arts Research, Evaluating Policies, Disseminating Research, and Leveraging Research for Advocacy. As participants arrived at 8:00 am, they scoured the room and chose, on a first-come, first-served basis, which group to sit in (the Musical Chairs portion of the program). Each participant then engaged in five animated, 5-minute conversations with others in their group (i.e., Speed Dating). According to Randy’s phone, the decibel level in the room rivaled that of a rowdy night club. Leaders of each group then shared highlights of those conversations with all the convening’s participants (Crowd Sourcing).Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More