The Issue: Arts Education
Every child should have access to a well-rounded education that includes the arts. The work to ensure that the arts are part of standard K-12 school curriculum with the proper funding and resources is a key policy focus at Americans for the Arts.
The U.S. Department of Education has begun a process to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and at the same time, 50+ state education agencies have started their administration of the new law. That is why we present both a Federal and State advocacy agenda below.
Focus Towards Solutions At Federal & State Levels
Americans for the Arts' CEO Bob Lynch and 8th grader Antonio Martin at the White House bill signing on December 10, 2015
In December 2015, Congress passed bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in landslide votes: 85-12 in the U.S. Senate and 359-64 in the U.S. House of Representatives.
President Obama signed the bill into law in a ceremony attended by a number of education leaders from across the country, including Americans for the Arts President & CEO Robert L. Lynch.
This long overdue authorization spans from FY 2017 through FY 2020, ushering in a new era of federal K-12 education policy with increased local control and state-level accountability, and also new opportunities for arts education.
For instance, under current federal law, the arts are included as part of well-rounded education. In this respect, the arts continue to have equal billing with reading, math, science, and other disciplines. This designation is an acknowledgement of the relevance of the arts in a complete education and means that the arts may be an eligible expenditure of funds for federal education programs (such as Title I, teacher training, and school improvement).
With the ESSA bill in place, arts education advocates will need to work with their state education leaders to ensure that the arts are a part of their state’s education policies (see below).
For specific details of arts education policy principles supported by national arts education and education organizations, read our unified statement (pdf, 559 KB).
Three priority issues for arts education advocacy at the federal level are:
- Ensuring well-rounded arts provisions in the new law (Every Student Succeeds Act; PL 114-95) are fully implemented
- Supporting funding for the Assistance for Arts Education program at the U.S. Department of Education at $30 million
- Supporting full funding the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program at its authorized level of $1.65 billion
- Find more details in the Issue Briefs to Congress related to Arts Education in the Congressional Arts Handbook:
- Statement from Robert L. Lynch, President & CEO of Americans for the Arts, on the Every Student Succeeds Act
- Senate and House “Dear Colleague” letters supporting full funding for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program
- For Americans for the Arts members, read the Spring 2016 edition of Arts Link featuring the new K-12 federal education law
- Check out our Arts Education dedicated webpage
- Start here with an overview of the Seven Basics to Know about ESSA and Arts Education
- As part of their State Policy Pilot Program, Americans for the Arts produced a webinar about the ins and outs of ESSA
- Presentations about ESSA from the 2016 State Policy Symposium are now available on the event's wrap up page
- As states set new outcomes for their accountability plans, Americans for the Arts has outlined how the arts are an evidence-based strategy for reaching those outcomes: The Arts Help Achieve Multiple Measures of Success (pdf, 231 KB)
- Three states (CT, NJ, and KY) already have the arts as part of their state accountability plans. Read this summary of how the arts fit within state accountability frameworks.
- The Arts Education Working Group, led by the Education Commission of the States, has created a roundup of ESSA resources (pdf, 65 KB)
- Americans for the Arts hosted a webinar in April 2016 about What's Next for ESSA in your State (pdf, 3091 KB)
- Americans for the Arts sent a memo on July 18, 2016 updating state leaders on the status of ESSA state implementation.
- Americans for the Arts shared a memo on October 21, 2016 summarizing two new grant opportunities in the ESSA legislation relating to well-rounded education and early learning (pdf, 93 KB).
Americans for the Arts sent a memo on December 13, 2016 updating state and local leaders about final regulations pertaining to arts education in state accountability plans.