As part of our ongoing advocacy efforts, we are looking to share stories of our All-State students’ success with state legislators. If you have All-State members in your program, please encourage them and their parents to go to https://www.tnmea.org/music-education-stories.html (available under the advocacy tab above) and share what their schools’ music programs and music teachers have meant to them.
Collected stories (submitted with parent releases – downloaded from the above page) will be collected and sorted by legislative district to provide each representative with local examples of music education excellence as TMEA shares its legislative priorities. Key legislators will also be invited to attend the All-State concerts and see their constituents in action.
Thank you for encouraging your students to participate!
TMEA had a busy and successful NAfME Hill Day on June 28, 2018. Our delegation included President Lafe Cook, Past-President Johnathan Vest, President-Elect Alexis Yatuzis-Derryberry, Executive Director Ron Meers, Advocacy and Government Relations Chair Christopher Dye, and Publications Editor Michael Chester (behind the camera in the above photos). We were joined by a stellar group of collegiate members who also participated in several days of networking and advocacy training, including Reggie Coleman (MTSU), Mackenzie Kelly (Austin Peay), Andrew Layne (UT-Knoxville), Lauren Mills (Lee), and Ebonee Woodland (UT-Martin).
In addition to continuing to build our relationships with our congressional representatives, our Hill Day meetings were focused on seeking full authorization-level appropriations for several areas of funding under ESSA, including Title I-A, Title II-A, and, most importantly, Title IV. Increased Title IV funding this year (and hopefully continuing into the next fiscal year) will result in grants allocated to every school district that can be used to expand well-rounded educational programs, including music programs. We were additionally seeking support for the Guaranteeing Access to Arts and Music Education (GAAME) Act, which had been introduced in the house the previous week. This legislation would give districts greater flexibility in their use of Title I funds, allowing for more support of fine arts programs.
The Tennessee delegation met with the offices of Representatives Black, Cooper, Kustoff, and Roe, as well as staffers for Senators Alexander and Corker. TMEA members are encouraged to follow up on our face-to-face meetings. Please consider sending your representative and both senators messages that their constituents support funding and access for music in our schools.
Members of the Tennessee Delegation at the U.S. Capitol Building
TMEA was well-represented at the 2017 National Association for Music Education Hill Day. The Tennessee delegation included six members of the TMEA board, four C-NAfME members, and NAfME Southern Division President-Elect Dian Eddleman.
We participated with the combined NAfME delegation in the morning rally (see NAfME's video here). We then visited Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker's offices, and met with staffers in the offices of Representatives Phil Roe, Jim Cooper, and Steve Cohen, as well as with Rep. Cohen himself. Each office received materials outlining NAfME's policy priorities, recent TMEA publications, and a set of letters prepared by the C-NAfME representatives from constituents detailing the impact music education has had in their lives.
The focus of the advocacy work for Hill Day was on encouraging full authorized funding for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in the fiscal year 2018 budget. ESSA was passed in late 2015 with broad bipartisan support and was intended to allow states and districts to have much greater control over the usage of federal education dollars. Among the asks were $1.6 billion for Title IV, Part A, which is designed to be a formula-based block grant that provides funding for well-rounded educational initiatives, school safety, and technology. At last year's $400 million level of funding, many states reverted to using the funds through competitive grants, meaning many districts will not have access to this support. The president's proposed budget did not include any funding for Title IV, Part A. The level recommended by the House Appropriations Committee this week is $500 million. Another ask was for funding for Title II, Part A, at the originally authorized amount of $2.3 billion, to support professional development. The president's budget and the recent recommendations of the House Appropriations Committee would not provide any funding in this area.
Our delegation was encouraged by the positive reception we received from each of the staffers we met with and the general consensus regarding the bipartisan values reflected in ESSA. TMEA will continue to monitor the budgetary process and follow up on the work of Hill Day throughout the coming year.
At their July 3 meeting, the Bledsoe County School Board unanimously voted to reinstate the district's band program. In May, the board had decided to cut the band program for budgetary reasons. After considerable public response, the program had been partially reestablished as an after school group in June, but continued public feedback persuaded the board to fully restore the program.
TMEA thanks the school board for choosing to support access to music education and for their responsiveness to the feedback they received following the initial decision.
As part of TMEA's advocacy efforts in support of access to high quality music education for all Tennessee students, the following letter was sent to each of the Bledsoe County board members in May:
Members of the Bledsoe County Board of Education:
The Tennessee Music Education Association strongly encourages that you reconsider your recent decision to dramatically reduce your district’s music programs, eliminating the high school band and all middle school general music offerings. While we acknowledge that financial constraints often lead to difficult budgetary decisions, this course of action will negatively impact the educational experiences of the children of your community and runs counter to the Bledsoe County School District Goals, the breadth of a well-rounded education outlined by the Tennessee Academic Standards, and the Tennessee Code.
The Bledsoe County School District Goals include “to provide offerings which explore a wide range of career and service opportunities,” “to promote an integration of academic, physical, social and emotional growth experiences for each student,” “to ensure that each student’s interests, capacities and objectives are considered in his/her learning program,” and “to help students gain understanding of themselves, as well as skills and techniques in living and working with others and being responsible citizens.” A comprehensive K-12 music education program is essential to achieving each of those goals. Without curricular music offerings at the middle school level and instrumental music at the high school level, the ability of many students to pursue their interests and develop their full capacities will be greatly curtailed. General music at the middle school level can be a crucial part of helping students express themselves, integrating academic knowledge with social and emotional development. Participating in large ensembles likewise helps students to develop important collaborative and leadership skills in addition to continuing their growth through musical expression. Additionally, recent research has shown that students who participate in music programs graduate at higher rates, attend school more regularly, and have fewer disciplinary issues than their peers.
As part of the comprehensive curriculum provided for by Tennessee’s Academic Standards, there are standards aligned to musical development in general music, instrumental music, and vocal music for grades 6-8 and high school. Without faculty and coursework in place to meet these standards, Bledsoe County students will be academically disadvantaged relative to their peers across the state. It is also notable that state law dictates that “the course of instruction in all public schools for kindergarten through grade eight (K-8) shall include art and music education to help each student foster creative thinking, spatial learning, discipline, craftsmanship and the intrinsic rewards of hard work” and “local boards of education are encouraged to fully implement the art and music standards adopted by the board of education through both art and music classes” (TN Code Section 49-6-1025). Eliminating middle school music course offerings is not in keeping with this statute.
Thank you for your consideration of these points. It is our hope that solutions can be found that provide every student in Bledsoe County with access to curricular music education opportunities provided by licensed teachers.
The Executive Board of the Tennessee Music Education Association
The president's proposed budget priorities, released this week, include a number of cuts in funding to programs that impact education and the arts. As proposed, it would eliminate both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities., which currently have combined budgets of just less than $300 million annually. The proposal also includes ending federal funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which includes PBS and NPR). NAfME has affirmed its support of full funding of NEA and NEH.
National Endowment for the Arts grants most often do not directly fund school music programs. However, they have had a tremendous impact on many outreach programs that benefit music students, and these grants have supported many of Tennessee's most successful non-profit music initiatives. Since 2010, groups in Tennessee have been awarded $10.3 million through 207 different NEA grants.
These have included:
If you wish to voice your support for these agencies as Congress begins to deliberate the budget, please contact your district's representative and our senators.
These agencies represent a very small proportion of the federal budget. The president's proposal also suggests large cuts in funding for the Department of Education, with a radical shift of funds away from existing programs for teacher preparation and other initiatives towards funding for school choice initiatives, including private school scholarships, charter schools, and voucher programs. Look for more information and calls for action from TMEA and NAfME as those broadly outlined changes in educational funding are given more specificity in coming weeks.
There is ongoing public debate about Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Secretary of Education. Following her initial hearing on January 17, a vote on her nomination by the HELP committee was postponed to January 31. There has also been a formal request made by 11 members of the HELP committee to schedule a second hearing to allow for additional questioning prior to a vote. Tennessee's senior senator, Lamar Alexander, serves as the chair of the committee and has expressed his full support of DeVos's nomination.
Tooshar Swain, policy advisor at NAfME, provides here a succinct summary of issues that were addressed in the initial hearing and those issues important to music education that were not raised.
Additionally, NAfME and the Music Education Policy Roundtable have released a memorandum to the Trump administration and DeVos, laying out a series of policy priorities.
If you wish to have your voice heard regarding the nomination itself or the request for a second hearing, please consider contacting both Senator Alexander and Senator Corker. There are a number of available groups that provide suggested talking points, or you may reach them directly:
Senator Lamar Alexander
455 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Senator Bob Corker
425 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
There has been some confusion about the recent amendment made to Tennessee's Education Code which passed in the last session.
As it was originally proposed by House Representative Harold Love and State Senator Reginald Tate, House Bill 1755 would have allowed "every candidate for a full high school diploma to enroll and complete one (1) computer science class and accept this class as satisfying the fine arts requirement for graduation." Had this passed with its original language, it would have created the potential for devastating effects on fine arts enrollments, staffing, and scheduling in high schools across the state.
However, the bill was amended on the floor of the house on February 29. The amended language, which passed through both the house and senate unanimously and was signed into law by the governor on March 31, states:
"Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, the state board of education shall approve appropriate computer science courses that every candidate for a full high school diploma may enroll in and complete to satisfy the elective focus requirement for graduation. As used in this section, "computer science courses" shall include, but not be limited to, software engineering, computer programming, computer graphics and design, and computer-aided design" (Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-6004 (2016)).
This places computer science within the elective category of graduation requirements and should have no impact on the 1 credit fine arts requirement already in place.
If you did not have the opportunity to attend NAfME's webinar on the Opportunity to Learn Standards and how they can be used to justify Title IV-A funding for your district's music education programs, the webinar and associated resources are archived here.
The state Department of Education has published the results from the 2016 Tennessee Educator Survey. Nearly half of all teachers in the state participated in the survey, and the responses are influential in both the creation and justification of a number of policy initiatives. Results are also available by district for districts with a 45% or higher response rate.
As the election approaches, Education Next has released the results of their 10th annual poll of American public opinion on education issues, available here. Topics include school funding, teacher pay and evaluation, privatization, and the instructional time that should be devoted to each academic subject.
NAfME is hosting a free webinar on Wednesday, August 24 at 7:00 EST/6:00 CST to present tools that districts can use to seek Title IV funding for music programs under ESSA. Registration is available here.
The Title IV funding process requires that districts conduct needs assessments. The webinar will focus on how NAfME's Opportunity to Learn standards can serve as a template to conduct a needs assessment for arts programs. This document can also be a useful tool for campus-level advocacy, as it lays out national best practices for staffing, scheduling, and curriculum.