Lynn Tuttle on the ESSA and Title IV Funding

This article was contributed by Lynn Tuttle, Senior Regulatory Policy Advisor for the National Association for Music Education

On December 10, 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law the newest iteration of the nation’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Originally part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, this is the key piece of federal legislation pertaining to our nation’s K–12 public schools. The best-known section of the law, Title I, targets the largest amount of federal dollars to schools whose students are from low-income households.

ESSA, replacing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, is a vastly different law than its predecessor. What many describe as “federal overreach into our nation’s schools” has been replaced with flexibility for both states and school districts in terms of enacting the intent of the law. This flexibility, along with specific provisions of the law, provides opportunity for music and arts educators to take a seat at this federal education funding table and be a part of the solution envisioned in this law for our nation’s schools and children.

While I will be presenting on specific provisions dealing with arts and music education at Growing up with the Arts, a national arts-in-education conference in Miami, I thought I’d focus this website feature on a new section of the law which creates immediate opportunities to support additional music and arts education in our nation’s schools – Title IV-A, Section 4107.

Title IV, or chapter 4 of ESSA, is entitled “21st Century Schools”. This chapter not only includes the legislation supporting 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the after-school programs through which many Young Audiences Arts for Learning (YA) affiliates provide arts programming before and after school, it also includes, for the first time, annual, non-competitive funding for districts and states to support three main categories: 1) Educational Technology; 2) Safe Schools; and 3) A Well-Rounded Education.

Local activity to support a music and arts-rich well-rounded education under Title IV-A

A well-rounded education, the phrase that replaces core academic subjects in this version of ESEA (because, as you know, “core” is a four-letter word!) is one of three areas of emphasis for Title IV-A funds. Well-rounded education includes the arts and music in its definition. Both states and districts are required to do a needs assessment of well-rounded education each year. As partners to your schools and districts, you can be an active player in this assessment. Who is conducting this Title IV needs assessment for your partnering districts? Can you be included in that work? What information do you have to share about the quality and availability of music and arts education in your partnering schools? What could additional funds help you to do? Perhaps reach more students? Provide for certified arts educators if you don’t have any? Support additional resources such as sheet music, instruments, or a kiln?

Once a district has undertaken the needs assessment, it will have to prioritize the needs it finds and then apply for Title IV-A dollars (most likely available beginning the 2017-2018 school year) to fund the items identified. You will need to be ready to provide information on why needs for music and arts classrooms and arts learning should be funded by these Title IV-A supplemental dollars. Not only will you need to be active in the needs assessment, but also be ready to make the case for why your identified music and arts education needs should rise to the top of the list.

Federal advocacy in support of a music and arts-rich well-rounded education under Title IV-A

Prior to ESSA reaching its 2-month anniversary, Title IV-A was under the gun as the Obama administration released its budget request to Congress on February 9th, requesting only $500 million for Title IV-A instead of the up to $1.64 billion authorized under ESSA. In addition to requesting less than a third of what Congress had allowed for this section of the law, the Obama administration also suggested that the funds not be distributed as block grants to districts, but instead be handled competitively by each state receiving funds.

If the Obama administration’s budgetary request stands during the appropriations process on Capitol Hill, far fewer schools and districts will be able to access Title IV-A funds, and probably fewer opportunities of the kind listed above will exist to support “a music and arts-rich well-rounded education” across the country.  States could focus the dollars in a particular area, a particular region, or a particular subject area such as health, for example.

Congressional leaders such as Rep. Bonamici (OR) have taken notice, and have created a “Dear Colleague” letter in an attempt to have their fellow Congressmen and Congresswomen support fully funding Title IV-A. As you prepare to greet your Congressional delegation when they are on the ground in your communities during Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week (March 27-April 2, 2016), I encourage you to thank your congressional leaders who have already signed on to the Title IV-A Fully Funded letter and invite those who haven’t to consider doing so. Not only will doing so mean more funds available to all districts throughout the nation, but will help schools meet the intent of Title IV-A. The flexibility at the heart of the law cannot be met with drastically lower funding levels and a competitive grant. Flexibility means getting the intended funds closest to the students, and allowing districts and their partners – you – help determine how those dollars best support a well-rounded education including music and the arts.

To access to House letter, click here.

The Senate letter is coming soon!

 

 

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