Music Education Policy Roundup – July 16, 2018

Good afternoon! Please find this past week’s Policy Roundup, brought to you by Rob Edwards, our new Policy and Content Coordinator, and Tooshar Swain. 

NAfME News

National Assembly

NAfME’s National Assembly took place in late June. The event provided an opportunity for member input on the organization’s activities through featured discussions, reports, and breakout sessions. The Collegiate Advocacy Summit and Hill Day were a major success, with over 300 music education advocates attending meetings with their elected representatives. See a full Hill Day recap here.

H.R. 6137 GAAME Act

On June 22nd, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez released the Guarantee Access to Arts and Music Education (GAAME) Act to the U.S. House of Representatives. The GAAME Act is endorsed by NAfME as well as the Music Education Policy Roundtable, and we are currently advocating for a companion bill to be introduced in the U.S. Senate.

If passed, this legislation would provide articulating language to encourage school districts to use their Title I, Part A Funds (school-wide and targeted assistance grants) to improve access to music and arts education for disadvantaged and low-income students, taught by certified music educators. The GAAME Act is co-led by Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA-8) and has thirty-seven original cosponsors from across the country.

More information regarding the GAAME Act can be found on NAfME’s website in the Public Policy Newsroom.

Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act

On June 26, the Senate HELP Committee advanced a bipartisan overhaul of Perkins-CTE with language requiring local needs assessments to explain how they will incorporate well-rounded subjects with their acquired career and technical education funds. This is a win for music education, as NAfME has been strongly advocating for the inclusion of “Well-Rounded” language in the bill.

The added language will align the legislation more closely with the Every Student Succeeds act (ESSA), which enumerates music as part of a well-rounded education. In this scenario, schools would have increased ability to pioneer or expand innovative music courses, such as music technology and recording arts.

Stay tuned for a Perkins update in the NAfME Advocacy Bulletin.

Congressional Resolution Commemorates African American Music Appreciation Month

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) is pleased to announce our endorsement of a bicameral, bipartisan resolution that commemorates the contributions of African Americans during African American Music Appreciation Month, which occurs during the month of June.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Gregory Meeks (NY-5) introduced the resolution (H.Res.974) along with Congresswoman Mia Love (UT-4) and 29 additional cosponsors. On the Senate side, Senators Cory Booker (NJ) and Kamala Harris (CA) introduced companion resolution (S.Res.559) with 7 cosponsors.

Read more about the resolution here.

Federal News

White House Proposes Merging Education And Labor Departments

The White House unveiled a plan Thursday to merge the Education and Labor departments into a single Cabinet agency: the Department of Education and the Workforce. The proposal is part of a 132-page document outlining a broad restructuring of the federal government. The changes would require congressional approval.

The merger is part of a plan announced last year by Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to “make government lean, accountable, and more efficient.” It also reflects the administration’s focus on career technical education and skill-building for today’s students.

The consolidation would create, within the new department, four subagencies, including one called the American Workforce and Higher Education Administration. This agency would, according to the proposal, “bring together current [Department of Labor] workforce development programs and [Department of Education] vocational education, rehabilitation, and higher education programs,” eliminating some redundancy across multiple agencies.

The proposal would also create subagencies devoted to K-12 education, research/evaluation/administration, and enforcement. The latter would enforce both worker protections and civil rights laws that protect the nation’s students.

Trump Officials Reverse Obama’s Policy on Affirmative Action in Schools

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Tuesday that it was abandoning Obama administration policies that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses, signaling that the administration will champion race-blind admissions standards.

In a joint letter, the Education and Justice Departments announced that they had rescinded seven Obama-era policy guidelines on affirmative action, which, the departments said, “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.”

“The executive branch cannot circumvent Congress or the courts by creating guidance that goes beyond the law and — in some instances — stays on the books for decades,” said Devin M. O’Malley, a Justice Department spokesman.

Striking a softer tone, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote in a separate statement: “The Supreme Court has determined what affirmative action policies are constitutional, and the court’s written decisions are the best guide for navigating this complex issue. Schools should continue to offer equal opportunities for all students while abiding by the law.”

Higher education reform stalled in the Senate, while House GOP charges ahead

The chances of Congress achieving higher education reform this year just got slimmer as the top Republican in the Senate on education issues said he sees no path forward.

On Thursday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate education panel, told a New York Times education conference that this year his committee will not produce legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965, a federal law that governs almost every aspect of the sector.

Alexander had promised to produce a bill by March, but it became clear in committee hearings that Republicans and Democrats were too far apart to reach consensus on ambitious changes. GOP senators want to overhaul the federal student aid system and ease restrictions on the types of programs receiving those funds to spur innovation in higher education. Democrats have agreed that the federal aid system needs revamping, but not if it means restricting access to students or sacrificing consumer protections.

State News

Kansas Supreme Court rules new school finance formula is unconstitutional

TOPEKA – The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state’s new school finance system is unconstitutional, striking a definitive blow to the Legislature’s latest effort. The decision found the state failed to meet the Kansas Constitution’s requirements to adequately fund education, but it did not specify a dollar amount to reach constitutional muster. The ruling also ordered a fairer distribution of state funding to ensure that students in poor districts have the same educational opportunities as their peers in wealthier communities.

With Monday’s decision, the latest stage of the Gannon v. Kansas school finance case, the justices sent the issue back to lawmakers as they head into an election-year legislative session in January. The majority of justices supported giving the Legislature time during next year’s session to try to come up with a school-finance law that meets court requirements. The court is ordering that a new funding law be crafted by April 30 so there’s time for the justices to review it before schools’ money runs out.

Anti-tax group abandons effort to repeal Oklahoma tax hikes

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) —Organizers of an effort to roll back tax increases approved by the Legislature to help fund a teacher pay raise say they’re abandoning their effort.

Oklahoma Taxpayer Unite organizer Ronda Vuillemont-Smith said Monday the state Supreme Court’s recent decision to toss out their ballot initiative didn’t leave the group enough time to gather the 42,000 signatures they needed to place the question on the November ballot.

The anti-tax group led by ex-U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn was seeking a public vote to repeal tax hikes on cigarettes, fuel and energy production.

But the Supreme Court ruled a description of the proposal on signature pages was insufficient and that its ballot title is misleading. The court said the group would have to start over and gather new signatures by July 18.

Arizona high court won’t block vote on school voucher law

PHOENIX (AP) — Public school supporters won a major victory Wednesday in their bid to block Arizona’s massive school voucher expansion law when the state Supreme Court ruled voters could decide the issue in November.

The high court’s decision was also a major loss for Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, Republican state lawmakers and school choice supporters in Arizona and nationally who backed the proposal, the largest expansion of school vouchers in the U.S. Nevada has a similar law but it isn’t funded so is unused.

The Arizona law would allow all parents to use public money to send their children to private or religious school, with a cap on enrollment at 30,000 students. Barring a repeal or replacement by the Legislature, the measure expanding the existing voucher program to all students will be on the November ballot.

Yale to continue using race in admissions, defying Trump guidelines

Despite the Trump administration’s reversal of Obama-era policies encouraging schools to use affirmative action to diversify their student bodies, Yale will continue to use race as a factor in admissions.

On Tuesday, the U.S. departments of Justice and Education announced in a joint letter that they would abandon the policy, arguing that the Obama White House overstepped its constitutional authority in issuing the guidelines. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — who less than a year ago rescinded the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, which made recommendations for all American colleges on how to handle reports of sexual misconduct — said in a statement that the Supreme Court has already ruled on the constitutionality of affirmative action policies, and that its decisions should guide schools’ practices.

In a statement to the News, University spokesman Tom Conroy said Yale’s admissions policies have always been in compliance with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law.

“Yale seeks to create a vibrant and varied academic community where our students interact with people of different backgrounds and points of view,” Conroy wrote. “Our admissions policies and practices reflect and support this goal.”

Research and Analysis

Low Teacher Salaries 101: How we got here, why it matters, and how school systems and states can compensate teachers fairly and strategically

Following decades of steady growth in per-pupil spending, the recession of 2008 marked a watershed event: in more than 30 U.S. states, inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending decreased. This may seem like a momentary blip, yet a deeper analysis reveals why some states should be concerned about the current level of K-12 per-pupil spending – and its effect on teacher salaries, the teacher labor market, and student success. Teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Colorado shine a light on this long-simmering issue.