Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Each year, in cooperation with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Americans for the Arts recognizes elected officials and legendary artists who have exhibited outstanding leadership in the advancement of the arts at the national, state, and local levels.
Mr. Cochran is a champion for the cause of arts education. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has been a prime mover in funding the arts education program of the U.S. Department of Education. Under his leadership, arts funding has been able to break through a ceiling. Prior to 2001, the Department's arts funding was sufficient only to support the national education activities of VSA arts and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Since 2001, additional funds secured with Mr. Cochran's help have allowed the Department to establish a program of competitive grants to develop model school programs as well as professional development activities for arts educators. Funds are generally awarded for projects that involve strong collaboration between schools and community arts organizations and that serve needy and at-risk populations; many studies have shown that the arts can help close the "achievement gap" between these children and more advantaged children. The Department of Education's arts education program also supports after-school partnerships between schools and community cultural organizations.
In 2000, Congress approved Mr. Cochran's Congressional Recognition for Excellence in Arts Education (CREATE) Act, which awards school districts that include the arts in their regular curriculum.
In 1999, the Senate approved Mr. Cochran's resolution designating March as Arts Education Month, encouragingschools, students, educators, parents, and other community members to engage in activities designed to celebrate the positive impact and public benefits of the arts and to integrate the arts into the school curriculum;
Mr. Cochran's commitment to the arts and to education runs deep. The child of a teacher and a school principal, he studied voice and piano, giving a recital during his senior year of high school. He has also written legislation that provides federal funding for teacher training, libraries and educational television. He has also fought against elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts.