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Home » Officer Columns » Updates on National Music Education and Advocacy Initiatives

Updates on National Music Education and Advocacy Initiatives

  -  former AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

As your Secretary-Treasurer, it is my duty to keep you up to date on the happenings of other labor, music, and music education related organizations with interests similar to those of the AFM. My column this month covers some of these efforts.

In January, Congress released a final bipartisan Omnibus Appropriations Bill to fund all discretionary federal programs through the end of the current fiscal year. The bill is generally good news for education and the arts, restoring nearly all pre-sequester levels. Included is $146 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. (More details on page 7.) The bill contains $67 billion in discretionary funding for education, approximately $811 million less than in the 2012 fiscal year, the last year that Congress passed a final spending bill. In particular, the bill includes $25 million in funding for the Arts In Education program at the US Department of Education (previously zeroed out in other funding efforts).

Following are a few additional updates on national funding, programs, and initiatives.

Title I funding continues to be important, as it serves the nation’s most disadvantaged students. Music and the arts, among other core classes, have benefited greatly from access to Title I funding streams. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) links Title I funding relief to “annual measurable objectives,” or improvements linked to standardized tests.

Despite strong incentives, most states have failed to achieve the minimum standards. In fact, since fall of 2011, 47 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Bureau of Indian Education have requested waivers for their schools. A top priority for education advocates, a new draft of ESEA is likely to be on agendas again at some point this year.

The STEAM movement, pioneered by Rhode Island School of Design, has worked to combine arts with the push for science, technology, engineering, and math education. At present, many STEAM recommendations focus on arts integration: that is, art-related projects taught by STEM teachers, which, in our opinion, do not adequately involve trained music and arts teachers. This means that, in theory, schools can claim to offer “arts education,” even if students have no access to sequential, standards-based arts instruction.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) stands by the consistent findings of research showing that regular music classes cannot be replaced with occasional integrated projects. In 2014, we will work to strengthen STEAM recommendations, ensuring that music and the arts are given the same weight as other STEAM-centric subjects.

Programs and initiatives such as Race to the Top, Common Core, and Turnaround Arts also raise questions about meaningful evaluations for students and teachers. NAfME will continue to monitor these fronts, supporting standards-based, sequential music education, and a more comprehensive approach to measuring results than standardized tests.

As we move forward into 2014, state legislatures will look to national trends to see where they should be focusing attention.

The National Music Council is a Music Education Policy Roundtable Member and is celebrating its 72nd Anniversary as a forum for the free discussion of this country’s national music affairs and problems. The council was founded in 1940 as a clearinghouse for the joint opinion and decision of its members and to work to strengthen the importance of music in our life and culture.

The mobilization of the Music Education Policy Roundtable is more important now than ever before. In association with the Roundtable, NAfME plans to introduce new advocacy materials in the upcoming months, designed to help millions of students, parents, and teachers advocate for music education’s place in our nation’s schools. We look forward to many exciting new advocacy ventures this year and beyond—check NAfME’s Groundswell website ( for ways to get involved.

Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, March 24-25, is approaching. The AFM is a National Cosponsor of this important initiative. Check the Americans for the Arts website ( for information on their exciting new 2014 program, registration, advocacy training opportunities, and getting involved. Remember, your advocacy is important!

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