Education and IRA Progress: Your Continued Advocacy Needed!

July 22, 2015

While U.S. Senate Passes Education Bill, Policies are Made in Your Home Town

On July 16, the Senate passed a bipartisan education reform bill that would replace the No Child Left Behind Act with the Every Child Achieves Act, a federal education bill that names the arts and music as core academic subjects of learning, preserves 21st Century Learning Centers afterschool funding, and provides support for Arts in Education programs at the U.S. Department of Education -- three of the key policy requests made in hundreds of messages from orchestras to Senators during the drafting process and debate on the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
 
Early this month, the House passed its education reform package, the Student Success Act. The House bill omits any definition of core academic subjects, and eliminates current afterschool and Arts in Education programs, in favor of flexible grants to states and districts. 
 
Next up, both chambers will need to designate Senators and Representatives charged with meeting in the middle to iron out a single bill that could win support from the House, Senate, and the White House. At issue will be major differences in each chamber's approach to state flexibility for the use of federal funds, and state accountability for students' progress. A proposal to require states to create publicly accessible "dashboards" was endorsed by orchestras and other arts advocates, but was defeated on the Senate floor amid broader disagreements on how to approach transparency on educational progress in a post-No Child Left Behind era.
 
What can your orchestra do to support music education in the schools as the national education reform debate continues? Advocate for music education in your community and at the state level. While federal education law provides broader structural pressures and incentives for public education policy, the vast majority of the decisions about how to close gaps in equitable access to arts education for our nation's students are -- and will continue to be -- made in your own back yard. Check out the League's music education advocacy tools, and stay engaged as the education reform process continues!

Progress on Reviving IRA Charitable Rollover

Dozens of orchestras in the states of members of the tax policy-writing Senate Finance Committee weighed in this week as those Senators acted to advance a legislative package that reinstates and extends 52 expired tax provisions, including the IRA Charitable Rollover. The bill is now ready to advance to the Senate floor, and would reinstate the IRA Rollover for the entire calendar years of 2015 and 2016, allowing donors to make larger contributions to charitable organizations by directly transferring a gift from their IRA without first paying taxes on the distribution. 
 
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has said he hopes the "extenders" package would reach the Senate floor before Congress goes on recess for the month of August, and that he would like to see some provisions made permanent. Timing will be tricky as fewer than 20 legislative days remain before the federal fiscal year ends, and the legislative calendar is packed with other priorities. Orchestras have joined the broader nonprofit sector in asking the Senate to make the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent as soon as possible, as approved earlier this year by the U.S. House of Representatives.
 
THANK YOU to the many orchestras that have been responding to the League's targeted requests for examples of how the IRA Charitable Rollover has supported your orchestra's work in your community. Your stories have been critical to supporting our efforts in meetings with key tax policy leaders in the U.S. Congress, as we work side-by-side with groups like Feeding America, the American Red Cross, and United Way Worldwide to seek permanent enactment of charitable giving incentives. Please stay tuned. The League will alert you as soon as there is certainty that the IRA Rollover will once again be reinstated.