The Political Process… What hope is there for the arts and arts education?

Posted by Ken Busby, Sep 09, 2015 0 comments

Narric Rome, Vice President of Government Affairs and Arts Education at Americans for the Arts, has been keeping us apprised on the reauthorization of ESEA, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and how the arts and arts education are being seen within the context of this legislation. Next week, Americans for the Arts will host a blog salon here during National Arts in Education Week, and continue the conversation around the ESEA.

This is the first time in more than a decade that there has been debate and discussion about this bill on the House and Senate floors.  That’s a good sign!  We have an opportunity to raise the profile of arts education and why standards and testing need to have a significant arts component.

U. S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, issued a letter to school and education community leaders in 2009 stating, “At this time when you are making critical and far-reaching budget and program decisions for the upcoming school year, I write to bring to your attention the importance of the arts as a core academic subject and part of a complete education for all students. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) defines the arts as a core subject, and the arts play a significant role in children's development and learning process....”

Secretary Duncan continued, “The arts can help students become tenacious, team-oriented problem solvers who are confident and able to think creatively. These qualities can be especially important in improving learning among students from economically disadvantaged circumstances. However, recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results found that only 57 percent of eighth graders attended schools where music instruction was offered at least three or four times a week, and only 47 percent attended schools where visual arts were offered that often.”

Armed with these statistics and the strong backing of our Secretary of Education, we need to be vocal advocates in support of keeping the arts as a core academic subject, not only working with our federal legislators on ESEA, but at the state and local level – with our superintendents and principals and teachers and parents, and local elected officials.  The arts matter, and we need to make sure that our voices are heard.

The arts – visual, performing, and literary – provide ways in which people of all persuasions – Republican, Democrat, liberal, and conservative – can find common ground on how to provide opportunities for students to be successful in school.  We have all seen the data that supports having the arts integrated into the school curriculum.  We know that students who are exposed regularly to the arts are three times more likely to enter a science or math fair and four times more likely to read for pleasure.  We know that students who are exposed regularly to the arts perform better, on average 50 points, on SAT tests.  We know that students who are exposed regularly to the arts are significantly more likely to stay in school, complete high school, and attend college.

As the political season heats up heading toward the 2016 presidential election, we need to remember the adage that, “all politics is local.”  We aren’t going to hear speeches from presidential candidates calling for more arts in our schools and heralding the values of arts education.  So, we need to focus our national efforts on Congress.  And we need to focus our efforts on state legislators and local city officials to make certain that we have the public funding necessary to support a robust arts program in our schools.

All of us need to work together to ensure that all children have access to a complete education that includes high quality, standards-based learning in the arts.  To help become part of the solution, please consider joining the Arts Action Fund.  You can add your voice for free, and receive legislative updates and notifications about actions that you can take to help support the arts and arts education in your community.

To paraphrase Charles E. Weller’s typing drill:  Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of the arts!

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