REACH OUT TO YOUR LEGISLATOR TO BE PART OF THE STATE BUDGET CONVERSATION
Visit this website: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/ to find your member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and send them this email.
I am writing to you today as one of your constituents that believes in the value of education but more importantly as one that believes in the importance and value of music education. I am a member of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association. PMEA is a statewide organization of over 4,000 members that represent music educators, students and members of the music products industry.
Music and the arts effectively engage students in their creative, cultural, aesthetic, intellectual, social, physical, and emotional developments—indeed, in the development of their identities as students and citizens; develop students’ skills critical to 21st century learning for success in school and life; and develop skills integral to the economy of the state of Pennsylvania and the United States.
I write today to urge you to consider the values of music education as you work toward passing a state budget. We know that music and the arts have often been the first classes and programs to be cut when budgets are tight. We hope you would help all students in Pennsylvania by considering the following things as you prepare the 2015-2016 budget.
1. Increase the basic education subsidy. Pennsylvania should increase the Basic Education Subsidy. State budgets in the past have cut funding to local school districts. By increasing the basic subsidy to local school districts, Pennsylvania would serve students more effectively by allowing local school districts the discretion to use the money as they see fit. Any addition to the basic subsidy should be distributed to districts in a way that allows districts to make local decisions to restore lost programs and/or to expand or initiate programs that support student achievement, including art and music programs.
2. Enact a fair funding formula. For far too long local school districts in some of the poorest areas of Pennsylvania have suffered by not receiving adequate funding for the students they serve. Pennsylvania should establish a fair funding formula that treats every student enrolled in a Pennsylvania public school the same. Students born into an affluent school district and students born into a poor school district should have the same right to an adequately funded education.
3. Restore the Arts Education Liaison position at the Pennsylvania Department Education. Pennsylvania should reinstate the funded PDE staff position that supervises the development of curriculum and standards in five content areas: Music, Visual Art, Theatre, Dance and Media Arts. The position was removed from the PDE Curriculum staff in the 2011-12 state budget.
I am aware of the many challenges you are facing as a budget is constructed. I urge you to consider the important role education plays not only to the children of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania but also to the economy of this Commonwealth.
Click These Links For Specific Advocacy Areas
Spring 2015 PMEA Advocacy and Public Policy Information – “How Has Music Education Impacted Your Life?” Book – March 2015 Advocacy And Public Policy Information – Valuable Advocacy And Public Policy Links
PMEA is actively involved in advocating for music and arts education at the federal and state level. PMEA advocate through the organizational leadership as well as the Advancement of Music Education Council (AME). The AME Council consists of members from all twelve PMEA districts, organizational leadership and members of the music products industry. Members of the council actively engage in advocacy and policy work at the local, state and federal level. Most of the work in public policy happens at the state level.
Currently, PMEA is working with members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly on some specific policy asks as they relate to the stat budget set to be passed by June 30, 2015.
Spring 2015 PMEA Legislative Recommendations
For Pennsylvania students to succeed in school and life, PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association) believes that:
Because music and the arts effectively:
- engage students in their creative, cultural, aesthetic, intellectual, social, physical, and emotional developments—indeed, in the development of their identities as students and citizens,
- develop students’ skills critical to 21st century learning for success in school and life, and
- develop skills integral to the economy of the state of Pennsylvania and the US,
All pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade students in Pennsylvania must be guaranteed
- music and arts education are offered as core curricula
- music and arts curricula are based on a balanced, comprehensive and sequential pre-K12, standards based music and arts education
- music and arts education are taught and assessed by certified music and arts specialists
THEREFORE PMEA requests that:
Ask #1: Increase in Basic Subsidy Funding
Pennsylvania should increase the Basic Education Subsidy. State budgets in the past have cut funding to local school districts. By increasing the basic subsidy to local school districts, Pennsylvania would serve students more effectively by allowing local school districts the discretion to use the money as they see fit.
It’s important to note that Governor Wolf has proposed a budget that would increase the subsidy going to school districts. However, Wolf’s plan to raise the wage tax, sales tax and cut property taxes among other sources of revenue are very controversial and will most likely not be enacted.
However, there is momentum for education funding reform. Few will argue that cuts to education in the past few years have hurt music and the arts. When a school district is asked to do more with less – the arts and music can be among the first targets.
Pennsylvania’s school districts continue to be highly dependent on the local wealth of their communities to support students’ academic achievement due to insufficient state funding. Almost every state pays a larger percentage of overall public education costs than Pennsylvania does. On average, other states contribute 45 percent of total education funding, but Pennsylvania contributes only 36 percent. This low state share means that Pennsylvania’s local school districts must pay 55 percent of all public education costs, compared to the national average of 44 percent. As a result, Pennsylvania’s state share of PK-12 education funding ranks 45th in the nation. Source: US Census Bureau 2014
Any addition to the basic subsidy should be distributed to districts in a way that allows districts to make local decisions to restore lost programs and/or to expand or initiate programs that support student achievement, including art and music programs.
Ask #2: Enact a Fair Funding Formula
For far too long local school districts in some of the poorest areas of Pennsylvania have suffered by not receiving adequate funding for the students they serve. Pennsylvania should establish a fair funding formula that treats every student enrolled in a Pennsylvania public school the same. Students born into an affluent school district and students born into a poor school district should have the same right to an adequately funded education.
Between 1991 and 2008, Pennsylvania did not have a functional school finance formula that distributed state funds to school districts either adequately or equitably. Hundreds of school districts lacked enough funding to provide all students with a quality education, and the state’s public school funding system did not distribute money to schools on an efficient or predictable basis. Members of the General Assembly who voted on budgets during that time had no objective way of knowing which districts had adequate resources and which ones did not.
In 2006, the General Assembly authorized a Costing-Out Study to determine the resources needed to help all students achieve the state’s academic standards. Act 114 of 2006 required the study to address two issues – adequacy and equity. The study of adequacy was to determine what it costs for all of our students – no matter where they live – to attain state academic standards. The study of equity was to address the growing gap between high- and low-spending districts and the implications for the quality of education received by students and for local taxpayers. The Costing Out study was released a year later and resulted in a funding formula implemented in 2008.
The formula, which took into account the number of students and factors such as poverty levels and local tax effort, was abandoned in 2011 when Governor Corbett took office. Education dollars are currently distributed to schools based on what each district received last year (hold-harmless), with some additional supplements based on political considerations more so than any sound and evenly applied education funding principle. Source: paschoolfunding.org
Pennsylvania is one of three states that does not have a fair and equitable formula for disbursing funding to its schools. Pennsylvania’s constitution requires the state to provide the resources for a thorough and efficient education for its children, but that is not the case for many of the state’s 500 school districts.
The General Assembly created the “Basic Education Funding Commission” in 2014. A report of their work is expected later this spring. Governor Wolf’s budget calls for the enactment of a new school funding formula by June 30, 2015, to take effect in the 2016-17 school year. The governor has committed to working with the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission to achieve this goal, and described four pillars that the new funding formula should achieve: adequacy, equity, predictability, and accountability.
The 15-member commission is tasked with developing and recommending to the General Assembly a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania school districts. The new formula will take into account relative wealth, local tax effort, geographic price differences, enrollment levels, local support as well as other factors.
Ask #3: Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Arts Content Advisor / Liaison
Pennsylvania reinstate the funded PDE staff position that supervises the development of curriculum and standards in five content areas:
- Visual Art
- Media Arts
The position was removed from the PDE Curriculum staff in the 201112 state budget.
The essence of this ask is make sure that the arts have someone available to support and disseminate information from the state level to arts teachers. Other content areas have advisors who are already in place. This position has been vacant for more than two years, but is necessary to provide support and professional development and technical assistance to educators across the state and to colleagues within the PDE. This position is critical as the state moves forward with the teacher effectiveness and evaluation system. Some roles of the PDE position include:
- Curriculum support, solicitation and review of materials and resources on the SAS portal
- Implementation guidance and support of content specific curriculum as it relates to development of the Student Learning Objectives design to be used for teacher evaluation
- Active representation in the State Education Agencies Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE) including direct access to the NCCAS arts assessment item bank.
- Development and review of arts specific professional development
- Support to arts education organizations regarding Act 48 professional development offerings
- Develop, monitor, and support professional online learning communities
You can download of 2015 Legislative asks here: 2015 PMEA Legislative Recommendations with talking points On this document, you will also find talking points to help you if you talk with policymakers.
As part of PMEA’s 2015 advocacy work, over 1,400 stories of the power and value of music education were collected. View the “How Has Music Education Impacted Your Life?” book and share with anyone you feel would benefit from this message. The book was presented to every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly on March 25, 2015.
I wanted to share some updates from the advocacy and public policy world.
As you may have heard this week, Governor Wolf released his proposed budget. In his budget address, Wolf actually mentioned “band.” In referencing budgets of the past four years, Wolf said “And it forced too many schools to cut art and band to pay for reading and math.” Certainly a positive statement coming from Wolf, who himself is a former tuba player.
Some of the highlights as they relate to education are:
- Increase of $400 million for Basic Education Subsidy (6.98% increase). This combined line item includes what was for 2014-15 separate line items for Basic Subsidy, Accountability Block Grant, and Ready to Learn Block Grant.
- Increase of $100 million for Special Education (9.55% increase).
- Increase of $120 million for Early Education – Pre-K Counts and Supplemental Head Start – (87.93% increase).
- Increase of $23 million for Career and Technical Education (37.10% increase).
- Increase of $4.6 million for Adult and Family Literacy (38.10% increase).
- Increase of $15 million for Community Colleges (6.98% increase).
- Increase of $45.302 million to the State System of Higher Education (10.98% increase).
- Increase of $82.138 million to State-Related Universities (15.76% increase).
- Increase of $2 million for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) grants to arts organizations (23.3% increase).
You can see how the proposal would impact your school district if enacted here: http://www.pennlive.com/
Of course, it’s a LONG way away from June 30th so it’s anyone’s guess what happens between now and then. The biggest question will be how will the state pay for these increases in spending. Governor Wolf laid out his proposal. It’s fair to say that members of the General Assembly will have their own ideas.
All of that said, this does put PMEA in a good position for our legislative asks. This year we have three main asks of Pennsylvania policy makers.
1- We want to see an increase to the basic education subsidy so school districts can restore and sure up where cuts have been made in the past few years. We hope school districts will choose to allow this money to be used for music and arts programs.
2- We want to see a fair funding formula. The Fair Funding Commission is working on a plan and it’s expected to be made public in the late spring. We hope to see a more equitable funding system that all equal access and funding for all students across Pennsylvania.
3- We want to see the Pennsylvania Department of Education restore the Arts Content Area Advisor to their staff. This position was eliminated from the 2011-12 state budget. This could be the year to get this position back with so much support for education coming from the Governor and the General Assembly. The position provides support and guidance to teachers throughout the state.
On March 4th, PMEA leadership met with leaders in the General Assembly and received a proclamation from Representative Eddie Day Pashinski (a former music teacher) designating March as Music In Our Schools Month. Our meetings with members of the General Assembly left us feeling very hopeful that the days of cuts to education are nearing their end. The devil is still in the details but this is the most optimistic reaction we’ve heard from policy makers in recent years. Here’s a quick video highlighting the event: https://www.youtube.
But, it doesn’t just happen. We need your help. We need PMEA members to show up at the Capitol in Harrisburg with us on March 25. That’s one day before the conference so come in a day early and bring some students with you too! See more details on that below.
We’re asking PMEA members to come to the Capitol and help us distribute the book we collectively wrote titled “How Has Music Education Impacted your Life?” Every member of the General Assembly will receive a copy of the book and it will include our legislative asks. We want you to make appointments to meet with your elected representatives or their staff members on March 25th. You can find your legislator here: http://www.legis.state.
- Advocacy in Action: Links for Music Educators
- Contact Advancement of Music Education Council Chair, Mark Despotakis
- Contact Advocacy Coordinator, Richard Victor
- PLAN (The PMEA Leadership Advocacy Network) Facebook Group
- MIOSM Editorial by Brett Hosterman
- Article by former PMEA Outstanding Superintendent, Joseph Batory: Cutting Upper Darby’s Elementary Music and Art Programs in a Dangerous “Roll of the Dice” Educationally
- NAfME Advocacy Groundswell http://advocacy.nafme.org NAfME Advocacy Groundswell is a social media-based advocacy hub designed to cultivate an online community of NAfME members from across the country interested in participating in advocacy initiatives, engaging in discussions about advocacy and regularly digesting advocacy news.
- Music Advocacy: Moving From Survival to Vision by John Benham
Co-published with: The National Association for Music Education This book is a summary of the practice of music advocacy. It is a compilation of research and experience gained from 30 years experience by one of the nation’s most successful advocates for music education. It provides the music educator, administrator, school board member, and community advocate with step-by-step procedures for saving and building school music programs. The methods presented in this book are responsible for saving $70 million in proposed music cuts equivalent to approximately 2000 teaching positions and 400,000 music students.
- PMEA Advocacy DVD Available Online – The abbreviated version (approximately 12 minutes long) of PMEA’s award winning DVD, The Music Lesson: Treat Music Like it Really Matters is now Online via YouTube by searching for PMEA Music Lesson. The full length DVD was recently recognized with a national Telly Awards for best documentary. Viewers see how important music is to the students and the school, the influence of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association to music teachers, testing, scheduling and budgets, incorporating music into the curriculum, starting an advocacy program and what it takes to have a successful program. If you want people on your side, share this outstanding video. Both the full and abbreviated versions of the DVD are available for purchase online by selecting the Online Store menu option and typing the keyword “advocacy” into the search box.
PMEA is a member of the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network. The Network is a coalition of like minded organizations and businesses advocating for arts education in Pennsylvania. More information can be found at artseducationpa.org