Music Education Policy Roundup – September 20, 2017

Read here for brief updates on policy developments affecting music education around the United States. These news items include federal, state, and local items that may be of interest to music educators, and are compiled periodically by Lynn Tuttle, NAfME Director of Content and Policy, and Tooshar Swain, NAfME Public Policy Advisor.


  • On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed their FY 2018 spending bill through a 211-198 vote.  If the bill would become law, the U.S. Department of Education would receive a $2.4 billion cut and eliminate funding for Title II, Part A, used to support the professional development for well-rounded educators.  Additionally, House Appropriators allocated $500 million for the Title IV, Part A block grant, a minor increase from the previous Fiscal Year. While we are pleased to see an increase for Title IV, this is still far below the authorized level for Title IV, Part A funds, set at $1.6 billion. Like the FY17 allocation of $400 million, this funding level remains too low to operate effectively as a formula block grant.   With the October 1 fiscal deadline approaching quickly, eyes turn now to the Senate who is significantly farther behind in the spending process. If you have not done so already, we suggest you visit and share our Grassroots Action Center, where you can send a letter to Congress advocating for more Title IV funding.


  • Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed their Labor-HHS-Education spending bill, which proposes funding for Title IV, Part A at $450 million, a $50 million increase from the previous fiscal year.  Again, this number is approximately a quarter of the authorized amount and NAfME disapproves of this funding level.  Read more here.


  • This past Thursday, the Title IV-A Coalition hosted a special public policy briefing on the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant program under Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  NAfME President (2016 – 2018), Denese Odegaard, participated on the “Well-Rounded Education” panel.  Moderated by Alyson Klein of Ed Week, the participants explored the three areas that these grants support: well-rounded education, safe and healthy schools, and technology. Experts, parents and practitioners discussed how these programs and services in schools are essential to supporting the whole child and why funding the program at its authorized level is critical to its success.


  • This Monday was the deadline for all State ESSA plans to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education for review.  Colorado has requested an extension.  To read about some of the best examples of incorporating music and arts education into state plans, please read here.  NAfME staff will be working on an analysis of these submitted plans over the next several weeks. Stay tuned!



Complaints on campus crime hustled along under Trump administration

The Trump administration appears to be cycling more quickly through complaints that colleges aren’t properly reporting and preventing crimes — including sexual violence — on campus.  Letters the department has sent back to those making the complaints also are much briefer than in the past, advocates say.

“They reflect an expedited process, and the letters … are much, much shorter,” said S. Daniel Carter, an expert in campus safety issues. “The Education Department has never previously issued letters like this, suggesting a major change in enforcement tactics.”


Black college leaders seek to again delay meetings with Trump administration

A group representing historically black colleges wants to postpone planned meetings with the Trump administration, for the second time.  The White House meetings, slated for Sunday and Monday, were proposed as a downsized version of an annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities conference. That offer came after college leaders and some members of Congress asked the administration to delay the conference after President Donald Trump appeared to equate activists protesting racism in Charlottesville, Va., with the white supremacists there.


Education secretary to speak at Baltimore commencement

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is scheduled to speak at the University of Baltimore’s fall commencement.  University spokesman Chris Hart said in a statement Friday that DeVos will give the keynote address at the event on Dec. 18.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Hart says the university is committed to intellectual engagement and an array of opinions.  Mariame Dangnokho is the president of the Student Government Association at the University of Baltimore. She says in a letter to students that the association was not involved in the discussion about bringing DeVos to speak.


‘Irresponsible and immoral:’ Education leaders condemn Trump’s decision to wind down ‘dreamers’ program

Education leaders Tuesday swiftly condemned President Trump’s decision to wind down a program that offered protections for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as young children, warning the move will disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of students.  The Trump administration announced it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in six months, giving Congress a chance to address the issue. The program, introduced by President Barack Obama in 2012, offered work permits and a reprieve from deportation to 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. Many DACA recipients are high school and college students who face uncertain prospects as they head back to class.


Betsy DeVos Says She Will Rewrite Rules on Campus Sex Assault

Saying that the Obama administration’s approach to policing campus sexual assault had “failed too many students,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Thursday that her administration would rewrite the rules in an effort to protect both the victims of sexual assault and the accused.  Ms. DeVos did not say what changes she had in mind. But in a strongly worded speech, she made clear she believed that in an effort to protect victims, the previous administration had gone too far and forced colleges to adopt procedures that sometimes deprived accused students of their rights.


Right and Left React to Betsy DeVos’s Changes to Campus Sex Assault Rules

The political news cycle is fast, and keeping up can be overwhelming. Trying to find differing perspectives worth your time is even harder. That’s why we have scoured the internet for political writing from the right and left that you might not have seen.


Bipartisan Bill Aims to Provide Support for Homeless College Students

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on Tuesday introduced legislation that aims to remove barriers to access to higher education for homeless students and those in foster care.  The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act is sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington; Sen. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio; Rep. Katherine Clark, Democrat of Massachusetts; and Rep. Don Young, Republican of Alaska. It would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to streamline the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the Fafsa, provide housing options for students in between terms, and improve outreach to homeless students.


Special ed strategies in K12

One month before the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, Turlock USD was still short five speech-language pathologists. The salary offered by the Central California district was high by area standards, but even so, the positions remained unfilled. In fact, no one had even applied.

Alice Solis, Turlock’s director of special education, struggled to hire speech pathologists when she worked at nearby Newman-Crows Landing USD, too. There, the district advertised for one year without attracting a single applicant.

Solis’ problem is not unique.


Survey: Millennials hold complex views on education

Millennials have surprising views on education, new data suggests, with no fixed ideology and, in many cases, attitudes about higher education that defy the popular idea that “college is for everyone.”Asked about the best ways to improve K-12 education, they propose a fairly traditional set of policy solutions: 1.Increase school funding 2. Improve teacher training. 3. Increase teacher pay.  But most millennials also say U.S. schools are not being held to account for the performance of students of color. And they support a handful of ideas that would make their former teachers blanch, including taxpayer-supported tuition vouchers. “At the very basic level, I think it reveals complexity,” said Vladimir Medenica, a researcher with GenForward, a nationally representative bimonthly survey of millennials — loosely defined as adults aged 18-34 — conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago. The new findings are being released Tuesday.


The Education Funding Trap 
The debt-limit deal punted on questions surrounding education funding (and funding in general for that matter) — a disappointment to many Republicans. But this is preferable to the Trump administration’s slash-and-burn approach to the issue if the goal is actually to enact lasting, conservative education reform. Conservatives have always been quick to point out the liberal fallacy that more education spending necessarily equates to better outcomes. On this, the evidence is clear: From 1970 to the early 2000s, spending per student on K–12 education doubled, but achievement scores remained flat. The U.S. now spends close to $12,000 per student, or $700 billion a year, on K–12 — far more than most countries — and yet ranked 27th on mathematics, 20th in science, and 17th on 2012’s international PISA tests. There are certain circumstances where higher spending can help, particularly for low-income students, but more money does not automatically improve student learning


DeVos Asks the Education Establishment to ‘Rethink’ Schools

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos slammed the established “education system” Tuesday, kicking off a “Rethink School” tour to highlight innovative ways educators are meeting the needs of students in K-12 and higher education.  “It’s time to rethink school,” DeVos said to students at the Woods Learning Center in Casper, Wyoming, Tuesday morning, where she began the weeklong tour.”  For far too many kids, this year’s first day back to school looks and feels a lot like last year’s first day back to school,” she said. “And the year before that. And the generation before that. And the generation before that.”  She continued: “Most students are starting a new school year that is all too familiar – desks lined up in rows, their teacher standing in front of the room framed by a blackboard. They dive into a curriculum written for the average student. They follow the same schedule, the same routine – just waiting to be saved by the bell.”


Senate panel rejects Trump’s proposed federal education cuts

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a spending bill that rejects President Trump’s proposed cuts to education funding for fiscal year 2018 and, for now at least, derails the administration’s goal of directing federal dollars toward promoting and expanding school choice and private school vouchers.  The 29 to 2 vote on the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill further illustrates the president’s difficulty in moving his education agenda through Congress despite Republican control of the House and Senate.  Earlier this year, the president had proposed a budget for the Education Department that represented a nearly 14 percent cut, or $9.2 billion, in spending, some of it for programs popular with Republicans. Members of the Senate Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Subcommittee dismissed that request Wednesday and instead voted unanimously to increase overall spending for the department by $29 million.


Two senators, a piano and a harmonica: The key to bipartisan harmony?

What do you call two senators from different parties who plan to perform together at a concert?  The Amateurs.  That’s the band name Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) are using Friday for a one-night-only performance at the Rhythm & Roots Reunion in Bristol — a city in southwestern Virginia or northeastern Tennessee, depending on where you’re standing.



Hogan refuses to sign off on Maryland education plan

Gov. Larry Hogan is refusing to endorse the Maryland school board’s plan for helping low-performing schools, saying state board members were hamstrung by a new law limiting what the plan can include.  The General Assembly passed legislation this year that limits ways the state can try to reform its lowest-performing schools — those in the bottom 5 percent. The Republican governor vetoed that bill, but the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode him.


Arkansas Education Board OKs 5 new charter schools, including 3 in Little Rock

The Little Rock School District will be home to three new charter schools over the next two years, and Pine Bluff will see two new such schools as a result of state Board of Education action Thursday.  The Education Board voted to accept the recommendations of the state’s newly reconfigured Charter Authorizing Panel that last month approved the five school plans for Little Rock and Pine Bluff and denied four other applications for charter schools in Little Rock, McGehee, Weiner and Bentonville.


Regents adopt new standards for K to 12th-grade arts education (New York)

Advocates say the arts are enjoying a comeback in public schools on Long Island and elsewhere — a point underscored Tuesday with the state’s adoption of comprehensive arts standards for preschool through 12th grade.

The state Board of Regents voted unanimously for the new guidelines, which cover dance, music, theater, visual and media arts. The standards will go into effect with the 2018-19 school year.


66 percent by 2025: State pushes for more post-secondary degrees, certificates for Coloradans

State officials want 66 percent of Colorado’s adults to attain a post-secondary education by 2025, helping to ensure their employment in a rapidly changing world.  The state’s ambitious goal for Colorado higher education was unveiled Tuesday. It calls for boosting the number of Coloradans earning post-high school certificates and two-year and four-year degrees by 73,500 over the next eight years.  To do so, the plan — “Colorado Rises: Advancing Education and Talent Development” — outlines four strategies for the state’s colleges and universities: increase credential completion, erase equity gaps between white and minority students, improve student success, and invest in affordability and innovation.


Report urges major changes in career education at Maryland school system

After years of focusing on getting kids into four-year colleges, Maryland’s largest school system should redesign and ramp up its career programs to keep pace with the changing world of work, a report released Tuesday said.  Montgomery County has created “a clear and commendable culture of high expectations” in its public schools, but career preparation “has been marginalized as a priority, sometimes being inaccurately perceived as the antithesis of the college-going culture,” the analysis by the Bethesda consulting firm Education Strategy Group found.  Presented to the school board Tuesday, the report recommended a string of changes, starting with a new vision for career readiness and more meaningful collaboration with key employers.


The sad story of public education in St. Louis

This is the story of public education in St. Louis and the challenges it has faced, an instructive tale in an era when the U.S. president and education secretary are intent on increasing alternatives to traditional public schools.  Rich in history and detail, the piece is long, but worth the time. It was written by Jeff Bryant, Jeff Bryant, director of the Education Opportunity Network, a partnership effort of the Institute for America’s Future and the Opportunity to Learn Campaign. Bryant, who describes what he learned during his recent travels to St. Louis, has written extensively about public education policy.


Doug Robinson, GOP candidate for governor, wants more authority to fix state’s struggling schools

Republican hopeful Doug Robinson would like to see a fundamental change to Colorado’s public education system — one that gives the governor’s office far more authority.  Robinson, a former investment banker and nephew of former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said Tuesday in an interview that he believes a lack of gubernatorial oversight has led to stagnation, especially in low-performing schools.


How U.S. News college rankings promote economic inequality on campus

America’s universities are getting two report cards this year. The first, from the Equality of Opportunity Project, brought the shocking revelation that many top universities, including Princeton and Yale, admit more students from the top 1 percent of earners than the bottom 60 percent combined. The second, from U.S. News and World Report, is due on Tuesday — with Princeton and Yale among the contenders for the top spot in the annual rankings.


Education by the Numbers

Statistics show just how profound the inequalities in America’s education system have become. 


Research Shows Spanish Speakers Take Longer To Learn English. Why?

A recent study out of Philadelphia tracked kindergartners who were learning English and found that four years later there were major discrepancies between which groups of students had mastered the language.