President’s Committee Urges Reinvesting in Arts Education

On Friday, May 6, the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) released its first major publication under the Obama Administration, titled, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future through Creative Schools.  The report includes a foreword by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in which he says, “To succeed today and in the future, America’s children will need to be inventive, resourceful, and imaginative.  The best way to foster that creativity is through arts education.”  The report issues five policy recommendations: 1. Build collaborations among national associations to create connections among the different approaches used by arts specialists, classroom teachers, and teaching artists. 2. Develop the field of arts integration through funding, professional development, and communities of practice. 3. Expand in-school opportunities for teaching artists through professional development and sustained engagement in the schools.  4. Utilize federal and state policies to reinforce the place of the arts in K-12 education. 5. Widen the focus of evidence gathering about arts education.

 Secretary Duncan Urges Support for Arts Education in State Budgets

The U.S. Department of Education has released promising practices to state leaders about how to spend education dollars productively. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged state governors not to make “short-sighted cuts” such as “eliminating instruction in the arts.” Secretary Duncan’s letter to governors highlights guidance on the flexibility of using federal funds to support different accounts and school districts in need of financial assistance. Arts education programs are eligible to be supported locally through federal funds, such as Title I, since it is a core academic subject. The Secretary’s letter and the Department’s guidance may be of help as music education advocates seek to bolster support in state education budgets and when speaking before local school boards. Various links can be found online and the “Guidance on Productivity” document contains the arts education reference noted above, under the “First, Do No Harm” section.

 Obama Administration on Arts Education

First Lady Michelle Obama explains the importance of arts education and opportunities for all students in a July 21, 2010 article from The Washington Post : "If I'm giving [arts] experiences to Malia and Sasha, and I think it's important to them, then I can't pretend it's not important for everyone … If they weren't important, the best high schools and grammar schools in the country wouldn't be fighting to make sure they had music and that every single one had an orchestra hall and a band. If we know it's good for some kids, it's good for all of them. We don’t need scientists or research studies or data to tell us what we already know.”

At the Arts Education Partnership National Forum in Washington, D.C. on April 9, 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman delivered remarks about the role of the arts in a complete education. 

Secretary Duncan proclaimed, “The arts can no longer be treated as a frill… President Obama, the First Lady, and I reject the notion that the arts, history, foreign languages, geography, and civics are ornamental offerings that can or should be cut from schools during a fiscal crunch. The truth is that, in the information age, a well-rounded curriculum is not a luxury but a necessity.” He also remarked that “as we move forward with reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act--is the time to rethink and strengthen arts education” – asking advocates to help build the national case for the importance of a “well-rounded curriculum” including the arts, for “the study of drama, dance, music, and visual arts helps students explore realities and ideas that cannot be summarized simply or even expressed in words or numbers.” The Secretary also explained why he believes education is the civil rights issue of our generation and that “arts education remains so critical to leveling the playing field of opportunity… it is precisely because a broad and deep grounding in the arts and humanities is so vital that we must be perpetually vigilant that public schools, from pre-K through twelfth grade, do not narrow the curriculum.”

Chairman Landesman voiced his support for arts education, sharing that he has challenged his agency to ensure there is at minimum one arts education grant in every Congressional district: “That's how important arts education is to my chairmanship: I want to know that we have reached every part of America with some support for arts education.” Furthermore, he stated, “it is our job to support and expand the work of our public schools. But the public schools need to own arts education — it should not be outsourced to us… our job is to work with classroom teachers and teaching artists to help extend their work.”  The Chairman went on to describe the powerful teamwork that develops from engagement with the arts and its value beyond the field, “Collaboration is essential to a 21st-century education -- no one works in silos anymore -- and the arts provide that… Collaboration is central to the arts, and we need more of both in our schools.”

Additional talking points to leverage include:

  • An August letter from Secretary Duncan to school leaders emphasizes that the arts are a core subject of learning and that states and localities can use federal funds to support the arts.
  • Remarks by Duncan in an August 18 teleconference sponsored by NAMM and confirm that arts education can help meet national education goals of closing the achievement gap and raising the bar on student and school performance.
  • On the occasion of the June release of the Nation's Arts Report Card , Secretary Duncan said, "We can and should do better for America's students."
  • A blog entry by League Vice President for Advocacy Heather Noonan for the California Alliance for Arts Education: Well-Rounded Curriculum in the Spotlight as ESEA Re-Write Gains Momentum

At the December 6, 2009 Kennedy Center Honors, President Obama's remarks included the following statement of support for the arts in America:

"In times of war and sacrifice, the arts -- and these artists —- remind us to sing and to laugh and to live. In times of plenty, they challenge our conscience and implore us to remember the least among us. In moments of division or doubt, they compel us to see the common values that we share; the ideals to which we aspire, even if we sometimes fall short. In days of hardship, they renew our hope that brighter days are still ahead. So let's never forget that art strengthens America. And that's why we're making sure that America strengthens its arts. It's why we're reenergizing the National Endowment of the Arts. That's why we're helping to sustain jobs in arts communities across the country. It's why we're supporting arts education in our schools, and why Michelle and I have hosted students here at the White House to experience the best of American poetry and music."

President Obama’s arts platform statement included support for arts education, stating that: “In addition to giving our children the science and math skills they need to compete in the new global context, we should also encourage the ability to think creatively that comes from a meaningful arts education.” The platform also noted that many schools are cutting instructional time for art and music. Current and comprehensive information regarding the status of arts education in our nation’s schools is essential to advancing arts learning for all students.

Education Commission of the States
The Education Commission of the States (ECS) has produced a number of resources reflecting support for the arts by noted leaders in national education policy. Arts and Minds: Conversations about the Arts in Education, is a series of interviews with former Arkansas Governor and ECS Chairman Mike Huckabee, Getty Foundation Senior Advisor Sir Ken Robinson, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Susan Sclafani.  The ECS has also released findings and recommendations from the Governor's Commission on the Arts in Education.