Please visit NAfME's Call here to participate. They provide a template letter that will automatically send messages to your representatives and senators.
NAfME has released a call to action to support full funding of Title IV-A in the coming fiscal year budget. Recent congressional budget negotiations have made it possible to fully fund Title IV-A, which provides grants to school districts to support well-rounded education initiatives.
Please visit NAfME's Call here to participate. They provide a template letter that will automatically send messages to your representatives and senators.
The Tennessee Education Savings Accounts Act passed out of the House Education Committee on Wednesday, March 27. The corresponding senate bill is likely to be heard in committee soon, at which point the bills would move towards a full vote. The TMEA State Board has issued the following statement regarding the proposed legislation:
Music Education Supporters,
The Tennessee Education Savings Accounts Act (HB939), if passed as amended, would result in a likely decrease in both access to and funding for high-quality music education programs for our state's K-12 students. Please consider reaching out to your representatives and encourage them to oppose this legislation.
The bill, establishing what is commonly known as a voucher program, would allow parents in certain districts to move their children to private schools or online education programs and establish an Education Savings Account to pay for related expenses. The funding of these accounts would be taken from the local and state funding that would be spent on each student in their public school district. This proposal creates issues of both access and funding. Private schools and, particularly, online programs do not provide the same guarantee of elementary music instruction and provision of music course offerings in middle and high school that our public schools provide. Further, where music instruction is provided, it is not held to the expectations of the rigorous Tennessee Fine Arts Standards and is not required to be provided by licensed professional music educators.
When district funding and enrollment decreases through voucher programs, it results in an increase of per-student expenses to provide faculty, facilities, and equipment for thriving music programs. Such a system is likely to lead to long-term financial hardship for districts, many of them serving Tennessee's most vulnerable students who benefit most from school music programs. The net result would be a significant increase in educational spending as the state provides partial temporary reimbursement to affected districts, while the Education Savings Account funding creates new inefficiencies in spending, including up to a 6% administrative fee for the Department of Education, outlay for students' personal technology purchases and transportation needs, and management fees paid to private financial management organizations. In short, more money spent less directly in support of students and teachers with negative impacts on participating students' access to music experiences and a loss of funding support for existing music programs.
Thank you for your consideration and support of high-quality music education for every Tennessee student!
Tennessee Music Education Association State Board
The Guarantee Access to Arts and Music Education (GAAME) Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this summer. The GAAME Act is a bipartisan bill that would modify the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to allow for Title I funding to be used for arts and music education. It includes an emphasis on "sequential, standards-based music education that is aligned to challenging state academic standards and is taught by certified music educators." Funding would be provided for "students to participate in music programs that address their academic needs (including support for certified music educators, music educator professional development, instruments, sheet music, and other expenses associated with music instruction)."
TMEA encouraged Tennessee's representatives to co-sponsor this legislation during the NAfME Hill Day. Please consider contacting your representative in support of this bill!
The 2018 legislative session was reasonably quiet in regards to developments with implications for arts education. TMEA continued its efforts in monitoring and advocating legislation throughout the spring. We anticipate that when the new legislature is seated following the 2018 elections there will be considerably more activity.
Several areas to look ahead to and to keep in mind as you have the opportunities to interface with policymakers, administrators, and parents:
- School funding: there continue to be several bills introduced each session that would re-allocate significant funding across the state in the form of various kinds of vouchers, waivers, and personalized accounts. Many of these, if enacted, would likely result in some loss of financial support for existing arts programs.
- Licensure requirements: varied pathways to licensure continue to be explored by states across the country. Although it is unlikely that there will be any movement towards radically changing the licensure requirements currently in place for arts teachers, we have seen several recent bills that have mandated specific license endorsements for various new requirements, such as physical education and physical activity, which could result in districts having to shift staffing accordingly, with potentially negative impacts for music.
Budgetary support at the Department of Education: TMEA's primary policy ask at the state level the last several years has been the re-establishment of fine arts leadership at the state Department of Education. With the governor's new initiative combined with financial backing from the CMA Foundation, there was a position included in the governor's budget proposal which was cut by the legislature. Through diligent support at the state level and from the CMA Foundation, this position has been established to facilitate the new grants. We will continue to advocate for the permanence and influence of such positions at the state level.
The 2018 legislative session is underway, with the deadline to file bills for consideration now past. As we did last year, TMEA is coordinating with our advocates to monitor pending legislation and mobilize supporters of music education throughout the coming weeks.
TMEA Members - if you have not, please encourage your parent booster leaders to register for our listserv at https://www.tnmea.org/booster-registration.html. This is our primary mechanism to reach a broad array of music education supporters from around the state, empowering us to effectively respond to pending legislation or policy decisions as quickly as possibly.
Several bills are being considered this week that we are following:
SB558/HB372: Tom Cronan Physical Education Act.
This bill, which passed the Senate last year and is awaiting House consideration, would require elementary students to have physical education instruction at least twice each week for a total of at least 60 minutes, taught by teachers with physical education licensure endorsements. If passed as written, this bill could eliminate the practice of music teachers being asked to provide supplementary physical education. However, in some districts it could lead to re-allocations of staffing and upheavals to scheduling. TMEA members are encouraged to talk to their local administration and explore how these changes might impact their schools.
SB 1663/HB 1699: Use of excess instructional time.
This bill would formalize the ability of districts to use excess instructional time for instructional planning meetings. This, along with the recently reported elimination of restrictions on counting professional development activities that occur during school hours towards licensure requirements, should continue to allow more flexibility for how teachers' development and planning time is allocated.
SB1626/HB 1460: Requirements for recovery high schools.
In response to ongoing concerns about students impacted by substance abuse issues and the present opioid crisis, this legislation would authorize districts or a consortium of districts to create recovery high schools to serve such students and provide appropriate resources. It is unclear which districts would intend on participating, but the program would have potential budgetary implications for any districts that become involved.
The federal budget for Fiscal Year 2018 is currently being developed. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provided for funding for well-rounded education programs, including music, for districts across the country under Title IV, Part A. However, Title IV is at risk of being funded at a level far below that at which it was authorized.
Title IV, Part A
In the passage of ESSA, Title IV represented a significant return of federal education funding to local decision making (see Senator Alexander's perspective here and Senator Corker here). Part A establishes Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants. These are intended to be distributed by states to every district in a block grant model. The most recent Tennessee ESSA State Plan commits to providing each district with at least $10,000 to be used as the district chooses to support Well-Rounded Educational Opportunities, Safe and Healthy Students, and Effective Use of Technology. Well-Rounded Educational Opportunities include "improving access to foreign language instruction, arts, and music education," "promoting community and parent involvement in schools," and providing "additional resources for
libraries and librarians, arts and music education." These represent the primary areas of federal funding available for the growth of music programs.
Current Budget Process
In the passage of ESSA, Title IV, Part A, is authorized at an annual level of $1.6 billion. In the fiscal year 2017 budget, it was only funded at $400 million. This resulted in many states having to allocate funding on the basis of a competitive grant process, which greatly disadvantages rural districts and those without extensive capacity for grant writing and runs counter to the legislation's intention of local control.
President Trump's proposed fiscal year 2018 budget included $0 funding for Title IV, Part A. Seeking full authorized funding was a major talking point for TMEA during NAfME's Hill Day last month. Last week, the House Appropriations Committee released its FY2018 proposal, which includes $500 million in Title IV, Part A funding, a small increase from last year's budget, but half of the $1 billion in funding proposed by the same committee last year.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, which includes Tennessee's Lamar Alexander, who sponsored ESSA, has not yet finalized its budget for the Department of Education. Following the action of the appropriations committees, the budget will move to consideration by both houses of Congress.
Call to Action
A move to fully fund Title IV, Part A, would represent an addition $23 million in funding for Tennessee's schools to be used to support local programs. Please consider contacting your house member and both Senator Alexander and Senator Corker to voice your opinion on this facet of the federal budget. Consider emphasizing the bipartisan support that passed the ESSA and its return of local control over federal education funds and share your personal passion and the importance of music education in your school and community.
Supporters of Music Education in Tennessee,
Thank you for contacting your state senators Wednesday in response to the proposed Senate Bill 631, which, as introduced, would have added social studies requirements to high school graduation requirements with a number of potential negative impacts on arts programs and students’ ability to participate in the arts.
Thursday morning, the Senate made the decision to delay consideration of the bill until next Thursday, April 20. There is a corresponding bill in the House that has now been amended, removing the high school graduation requirement component of the bill and instead focusing on mandating units on Tennessee History in the elementary and middle school curriculum. It is likely that the delay will allow for the same amendment to be added to Senate Bill 631 prior to its consideration next week.
Your calls and emails on behalf of music students and strong Tennessee music programs helped to ensure that the bill would not proceed as introduced! TMEA will continue to monitor the bill in advance of its consideration, along with all other pending legislation that may impact access to and support for music education for all K-12 students across the state.
Christopher K. Dye
TMEA Government Relations / Advocacy Chair
As we enter the last weeks of committee meetings for the General Assembly, there are several pieces of legislation TMEA is monitoring:
The "recess" bill from last year's session, mandating a specific amount of daily unstructured physical activity, is likely to be replaced with new language. Several versions were introduced earlier in the session, ranging from full repeal to slight tweaks to the mandated time. The amended bill that will be heard in committees this week shows a good deal of compromise. As currently amended, it would require 130 minutes of daily physical activity at the elementary level and 90 at the secondary level. It does not include the previously specification of "unstructured" activity, so participation in physical education and other structured activities count towards the total.
There may be significant opportunities for music educators to advocate for their programs on the basis of this legislation, should it pass as amended. First, programs that have lost instructional time due to the onerous daily mandates can push to have time reinstated. Furthermore, the inclusion of structured physical activity could provide chances to advocate on the basis of kinesthetic musical activities ranging from dance to choreography to marching band.
Both house and senate education committees will review a bill this week that would officially push forward the use of TNReady data for applications in assessing school ratings and in teacher evaluation following the unsuccessful administration of the tests last school year.
Several competing bills are still under consideration that would create a system of school vouchers in at least a trial form. These come with a variety of labels, including the establishment of "Empowerment Scholarship Accounts." The ESA bill language is particularly notable for supporters of public schools, as it specifically requires that funding in such an account be used to attend nonpublic schools and that the balance of the account would be forfeited if at any time a student enrolls in a public school. Other proposed voucher programs include the ability to attend other public schools, both community governed and public charters. These appear to be targeted primarily at the state's largest urban areas.
It is likely that any substantial use of a school voucher program will have negative budgetary impacts on public districts and may endanger staffing and funding for music teaching positions. If you are aware of any such impacts emerging in your district, please contact TMEA leadership so we can advocate on your behalf.
New legislation continues to be introduced in advance of the start of committee work this week. We anticipate that education legislation will begin to be placed on calendars for consideration in the next week. Below are several newly proposed bills with potential impacts on music education:
HB 97, sponsored by Rep. Harry Brooks (Knoxville), would require the State Board of Education to contract a national non-profit (not specified) to provide a wide range of efforts to increase the earning of college credits in high school. This includes a provision that the state would pay for all examination fees associated with such courses.
HB 111, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (Clarksville), would allow the commissioner of education to waive licensure requirements for individual teachers at a school district's request. This is likely intended to help rural districts fill hard-to-staff positions. However, there is no language in the bill that would require the district to demonstrate a good-faith effort to fill positions with licensed personnel.
HB 112, sponsored by Rep. John Forgety (Athens), would require every district to offer a "soft skills" course as part of their career and technical education curriculum. Additional mandated course offerings could have impacts on staffing and scheduling that could negatively affect arts supports.
From Christopher Dye, TMEA Advocacy/Government Relations Chair:
TMEA is taking steps to become more involved in actively advocating for music education in the state through monitoring proposed legislation and developing relationships with state representatives and senators.
TMEA, with support from the regional music education associations, the Tennessee Arts Academy, and the National Association of Music Merchants, has contracted the firm Millsaps Gowan Government Relations to monitor proposed legislation for potential impacts on music education and to provide opportunities for TMEA leadership to meet with legislators and hopefully influence the language of bills as they are being considered. As part of this effort, TMEA leadership is receiving regular updates on pertinent proposed legislation and participating in weekly conference calls with Millsaps Gowan. Following these calls, we will be updating this blog to keep the membership informed, scheduling meetings to advocate on behalf of music educators, and encouraging members to contact their legislators and parent groups, as appropriate.
At this stage in the legislative process, a number of bills have been proposed, but no schedules for committee hearings have yet been set. Please note that it is not yet clear which, if any, of the below bills will be moved forward for full consideration. However, these initial proposals may still provide insight into the kinds of initiatives and priorities being considered by the legislators.
HB 22, sponsored by Rep. Brooks (Cleveland), would require districts to offer at least six courses that lead to college credit, which could incentivize the creation of more AP or dual credit music offerings.
HB 45, sponsored by Rep. Dunn (Knoxville), would repeal last year's legislation requiring specific time periods of physical activity at each grade level, which in some cases has led to shortening of music instruction, particularly at the elementary level.
HB 67, sponsored by Rep. Smith (Knoxville), would require the state to establish valid individual student growth models for all non-tested subjects and grades by 2018-2019.
SB 14, sponsored by Sen. Green (Clarksville), would implement a wide ranging set of rights of teachers. Among these include the right to physically defend themselves and students from physical violence. Of particular impact to current policy would be provisions c.2 and c.3, which would prohibit teachers from being evaluated by "professionals who do not have the same subject matter expertise as the educator being evaluated" or on the basis of "the performance of students whom the educator has never taught."
We look forward to having a more active role in working with the legislature in implementing education policy and in keeping TMEA's membership aware of pending changes. Please engage with your local representatives as issues emerge during the legislative session and contact me or any other TMEA leadership if there are issues of music education policy you wish to see raised at the state level.