Summer Policy Round-up: Ivory Rules, Visas, Funding, & Music Ed

July 8, 2016

Ivory rules take effect

Fresh guidance is now available about the impact of ivory rules for musicians. On July 6, new policies officially took effect for international travel and domestic commerce with musical instruments that contain small quantities of African elephant ivory. The League played a key leadership role in national conversations with White House officials, top leadership at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Congress, and conservation organizations to successfully seek solutions that would address urgent conservation concerns while also protecting international cultural activity. Visit our dedicated resource center for detailed information about new USFWS guidance that spells out how to access exemptions for musical instruments.

Visas: seeking more expedience, not expense!

This week, the League led a broad coalition of national performing arts organizations calling for immediate improvements to the U.S. visa process for international artists. Amidst lengthy processing delays, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed making it more costly to apply for the required visas for foreign guest artists, increasing the filing fee by 42% from $325 to $460. The date for implementing the proposed fee increase has not yet been set. The League has submitted comments on behalf of orchestras - and in partnership with a national nonprofit performance arts coalition including the American Federation of Musicians, Performing Arts Alliance, The Recording Academy, and many others - urging USCIS to make immediate improvements to the artist visa process.

Federal funding: your summer homework with elected officials

Given that this is an election year, the House and Senate are taking a long summer recess, which makes the prospects uncertain for the federal budget to be completed. Bills that are of importance to the orchestra community are on the move, and here is the latest on where things stand:

  • National Endowment for the Arts: The House Appropriations Committee has recommended $149.849 million for FY17, which equals the President's request for the agency and would be an increase of $2 million from its current budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee has also recommended an increase, but a smaller one - just $500,000 above the FY16 budget.
  • Arts EducationOne new area of funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act is for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program, which will support learning in "well-rounded subjects" including the arts. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved just $300 million for this program, which falls far short of the already paltry $500 million requested by the Administration. House Appropriators have approved $1 billion. Meanwhile the Assistance for Arts Education (AAE) program received a Senate Appropriations recommendation for level funding of $27 million while the House has not advanced funding for the program.
  • Cultural Exchange: The House Subcommittee has recommended $112 million in FY17 for the U.S. Department of State's Office of Citizen Exchanges, which administers arts, sports, youth, and other exchanges. The Senate is further along in its process, with the Appropriations Committee having just approved $107.69 million, a more modest increase above the FY16 level. In its report language accompanying the funding recommendation, Senate Appropriators made special mention of youth orchestras:

    Citizen Exchange Programs.-The Committee encourages the Secretary of State to support, from funds provided for Citizen Exchange programs, exchanges for youth orchestra and other musical ensembles administered by the Youth Programs Division in coordination with the Cultural Programs Division.

Take action for music education

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) marks an important, new opportunity to ensure that every student has access to arts and music education. Now, even more of the decisions about how the arts are supported in education will be made at the state and local levels. As civic-minded community-based organizations, America's adult and youth orchestras work every day - through their programs, partnerships, and policy engagement - to increase access to music education in our nation's schools and communities. The League has prepared an ESSA Resource Center with links that provide an overview of the new law, public statements to elected officials that urge full funding and support, resources to equip arts advocates at the state and local level, and next steps for orchestras to take action