Americans for the Arts will support each state team with customized coaching, technical assistance throughout the three year pilot, via web-based tools and site visits and provide grants of at least $30,000 to each state effort, making this the largest arts education advocacy grant program in the country.

Through the three year engagement, each state team will work towards specific objectives, resources and outcomes that they seek to impact. With issues ranging from teacher effectiveness and high school graduation requirements to Title I funding and equitable implementation of state policies, the ten states are tackling complicated education policy topics. Participating states vary greatly in size, political landscape, geography, population size, demographics, and arts education conditions.

Participating states: Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wyoming, Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina, California, Minnesota, Oklahoma

State Policy Program Description

Americans for the Arts has launched a three-pronged strategy that will help influence implementation of federal mandates or programs at the state level; expand state support of arts education in policy and appropriations; and impact local access to arts programs and instruction for students. The State Policy Pilot Program has three main strategies that are outlined below:

Strategy 1: Data Collection/Planning Phase

Starting in 2013, Americans for the Arts began four distinct projects to collect data that will help inform our work, help us decide which states are ready and willing to work with us, and to share vital information with the field about what is happening at the state level in arts education.

Project 1: Meta-analysis of current state studies by Bob Morrison, WESTAF, South Arts, and others looking at student access to arts education. This analysis will help us understand current trends in states and to understand what type of assistance is needed in each state.

Project 2: Gap analysis of the Arts Education Partnership’s policy database to see where practice differs from policy. This will give us a better idea of which advocacy campaigns are most needed.

Project 3: Heat map of organizations’ presence in states, both in terms of staff and services. This will help us understand who is available to partner, what type of work is already being done, and which states have staff/organizational capacity to do work with us.

Project 4: Ongoing review of state data to provide baseline information about student access to arts education. This type of data can help in two ways: 1) knowing where to better align efforts and resources to affect the greatest change states, and 2) crafting better advocacy messages that contain current data.

Once we complete these projects, we will turn the findings into toolkits, such as infographics, state of the states reports, or publications that states can utilize in their education policy efforts.

Strategy 2: Working with States

We’ll provide ongoing, customized technical assistance for states in two ways:

Tier 1: In-depth services and customized technical assistance (10 states)
We’ll select teams from 10 states to be our pilot cohort over the 3 years of the pilot program. Participating states must be willing to collaborate across agencies and commit to developing and implementing a policy strategy during this project. These states should have strong leadership at multiple agencies (in the public and private sectors) that would be more apt to affect change. States will be invited to apply to participate, which will require a lead applicant and the creation of a state team, comprised of 2-6 members. Participants on the team can be selected from the following groups:

  • Governors/Lt. Governors
  • State Legislators
  • Chief state school officers, or education agency staff, including arts education officials
  • State boards of education members
  • Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network (KCAAEN) state members
  • State Arts Action Network (SAAN) state members
  • National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) state members
  • Other similar state-level organizations/agencies/funders

State teams must commit to the co-creation of a written plan for action, and must submit a final report to Americans for the Arts outlining what worked and did not during participation in the pilot program. Teams will receive customized coaching and technical assistance throughout the three year pilot, via web-based tools and site visits, as well as a direct grant of $10,000 each year to support the goals identified in the written plan for action.

To ensure that best practices developed throughout the strategy planning and implementation processes, pilot states will be required to:

  • Co-create, with support/guidance from AFTA, a written plan of action
  • Attend the annual symposium
  • Participate in one SAAN meeting per year (At least one team member per state will attend and share what their team is learning through the project’s various strategies.)
  • Produce a final report, outlining what worked and did not work during the participation in the pilot program.

These final reports/case studies will be turned into publications to be shared across the State Arts Action Network and more broadly.

Tier 2: State-by-State Campaigns (50 states)
Americans for the Arts has invested in the revision of the national arts standards and will craft a national advocacy campaign to get the standards adopted or adapted in as many states as possible. For each of the three years of the State Policy Pilot Program, AFTA will develop these types of state-by-state campaigns on pressing policy issues.

Additionally, for one year, AFTA will provide advocacy outreach support for 15 states that don’t currently engage with grassroots advocates. We aim to increase the use of e-advocacy tools for education policy and appropriations.

Strategy 3: Networking and Knowledge Sharing

An annual state symposium will bring together leaders across many state agencies to discuss education policies with their peers, as well as gain insights from policy experts. Attendees can share examples of what is and isn’t working in their state, and discuss policies and trending educational policy topics such as:

  • state waivers
  • teacher certification requirements
  • teacher evaluation   
  • school grading systems (creativity index)
  • use of Title I funds   
  • turning around schools through the arts
  • standards (both Common Core and the adoption of revised national arts standards)   
  • high school graduation and university admissions requirements in the arts

In 2013, Americans for the Arts worked with the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network to host a policy symposium before National Arts Advocacy Day. Attendees included members of State Arts Action organizations, Kennedy Center Alliance members, and leaders from State Education Agencies, as well as members of education organizations such as NASBE, CCSSO, etc.

In 2014 and 2015 we supported a policy symposium with the Arts Education Partnership. Throughout SP3, we will continue to support convenings of a broad range of state leaders across many states and many agencies. These are effective meetings because states are often isolated in their efforts to support arts education. This strategy can share best practices across the states through a national network of arts and education experts. States will gain insights from policy experts through in-depth workshops that include reports, case studies, and other tools that they can learn from and replicate in their home state.

Through this strategy, we will utilize our State Arts Action Network (SAAN) as a central place for state leaders across many agencies and organizations to network and share ideas and resources. Based on what we are learning in the other strategies, Americans for the Arts will craft outreach tools, sample legislation, case studies, and resources to be shared with the SAAN network and as many other state leaders as possible.


2016 State Policy Symposium
States of Change: The Arts Leading the Way for Student Success
Saturday, March 5, 2016
Learn More