May 26, 2011

Panel Votes to Eliminate Arts Ed

President Barack Obama drops by the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities meeting
in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, May 11, 2011.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

by Thomas L. Birch, Legislative Counsel
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

Earlier today, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, with authorizing jurisdiction over the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), passed on a strict party-line vote a bill to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education's Arts in Education program, which provides support for competitive grants to promote innovations in arts education.

The Setting New Priorities in Education Act (H.R. 1891)
, introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, would eliminate some 40 education programs identified as "inefficient and unnecessary."

An amendment to the bill, offered by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), aimed to restore funding authorization for the arts education program and a handful of others such as language education, teaching of "traditional American history" and economic education. It failed to pass, on a party-line vote as well.

There is no word on when the bill might go to the House floor for a vote, or what its prospects might be in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Much of the legislative activity this year on Capitol Hill has revolved around legislation passed by the Republican majority in the House and rejected—or ignored—by the Democratic majority in the Senate.

The bill sponsored by Hunter was presented as the committee's debut effort in reform of ESEA. In fact, the measure has little to do with reform, failing to address concerns raised by Republicans as well as Democrats since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act. The serious consideration of reforming federal education policy remains in the future.


Rather ironically (or not), just 12 days ago, the White House published a blog post about a new report that makes the case for expanding access to arts education in schools. Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America's Future Through Creative Schools argues that the arts hold great potential to bolster student engagement and academic achievement. At the same time, it laments that the current trend is toward eroison of the arts on campus.

The report gives special attention to the practice of arts integration, where subjects such as math, science, and language arts are integrated with teaching arts disciplines.

"This is an educational solution that has been hiding in plain sight," Rachel Goslins, the executive director of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanitiessaid in a press release. "Everyone stands to benefit from integrating the arts more fully into our schools."

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