Call with Secretary of Education on Arts Ed

This week Secretary of Education Arne Duncan engaged in a public conference call on the subject of arts education with more 2,000 educators, advocates, leaders, and concerned citizens.  Our Education Program Manager Jenny Meyburg joined in on the discussion.

Keep reading to learn more about what was discussed on the call: 

  • The vast majority of education funding is at the STATE & LOCAL level, as opposed to the federal level. Ninety percent of education funding comes from the state and local level as opposed to federal – 90%! That means that it’s the responsibility of constituents, parents, students, educators, community members, to communicate and remind their local representatives of the importance of arts education
  • Under federal law the arts are a core academic subject.  The Secretary noted that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is up for reauthorization.  As we consider NCLB, we need to keep in mind that we do not want to narrow the incentives for school districts to support the arts.
  • Remind (and then remind again and again) your local representatives that arts education is important to you. Every politician wants to support arts education, the main problem is lack of resources coupled with the view of the arts not being a core curricular requirement so state and local politicians need to be constantly reminded by the people who elect them that arts education is important to the community.
  • Federal education dollars awarded to creative and effective programming. There are many competitive dollars now from stimulus funds and Race to the Top (the Department of Education’s new initiative) grants, so the state and local level has to push for those funds.  The federal government’s goal is to empower folks at the local level to think creatively to close the achievement gap and raise our educational standards.
  • Assessment is important. Secretary Duncan stressed the importance of assessing the current situation of arts education around the country.  Surveys in and of themselves create a type of conversation that we have to have.  He emphasizes that this data needs to be transparent, and that
  • As local advocates there are three things to do:
  1. Highlight successes from around the country – recognizing and rewarding where things are stellar to serve as role models for others
  2. Support successful partnerships – school districts cannot provide everything that students need for excellent arts education, so utilize partnerships with non-profits
  3. Parents need to push for and demand arts education – It is the educator’s job to listen to what parents want and to respond to those needs.

Major takeaway: At From the Top, we encourage even our youngest performers to advocate for the arts in their communities.  Whether 12 or 42, Americans of all ages should voice their concerns. Each of us has a right and a responsibility to remind key decision makers (on the local and national level) of the importance of the arts in education and its role in making our society thrive. Remind your city manager/mayor/governor/state and US representatives/congressmen, etc. of the stakes of losing quality arts education and demand that they go after those recovery funds just waiting to help out our kids! States are making their budgeting decisions now, so now’s the time to push for this.

Richard Kessler of the ArtsJournal Blog Dewey21C also gives a great summary of quotes from Secretary Duncan.