How much of a priority should music and arts education be in America’s public schools?
3.9 million public elementary school students have no access to visual arts classes, while 1.3 million have no access to music classes, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
What the bill does
It would do so by incentivizing such federal money be spent through 2015’s Every Student Succeeds Act, which for the past three years has been the primary legislation governing American education policy. (It replaced 2002’s more famous No Child Left Behind Act.) The money would be reallocated from existing federal education funds, rather than as an added expense.
What supporters say
Supporters argue that arts education produces ancillary benefits beyond just the artistic.
“Too many Montana students are going back to school this week, but don’t have the opportunity to study music or art,” Sen. Tester said in a press release. “Research shows that when students study music and art, their attendance, classroom participation, and grades improve-including in science and math courses. This bill helps ensure that schools can provide these life-changing learning opportunities to our future leaders.”
“The role of music and art in a child’s development cannot be forgotten — especially in schools where funding is limited and budgets are stretched,” Rep. Velázquez said in a press release. “I am proud to introduce legislation that would open the doors for enriching music education in these schools and help to ensure that all children are exposed to the joy and benefits of learning music.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that arts and music spending, while it sounds noble, can be a frivolous expense for American taxpayer dollars.
“Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney asked on MSNBC last year, after his administration proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and ending federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
Congress, even though led by the president’s party, nixed most of these proposed cuts — and in some cases even increased such arts funding.
Odds of passage
The legislation has 62 bipartisan House cosponsors: 59 Democrats and three Republicans. The three Republicans are Reps. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ3), David Reichert (R-WA8), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL27). It awaits a potential vote in the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
The bill has attracted only one Democratic cosponsor in the Senate: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.