NAMM Members Lobby Capitol Hill for Music Education

Nearly 100 music industry leaders gathered May 22-24 in Washington, D.C., to advocate for music education during NAMM's annual Advocacy Fly-in.

This year's event proved especially timely, given that President Donald Trump's proposed budget was sent to Congress the day before delegates headed to Capitol Hill. That budget included dramatic cuts that could affect music and arts education.

The president's recommendations wiped the entire budget for the newly created Title IV Part A block grants earmarked to help provide students with a well-rounded education that includes music and the arts. As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2015, the law specifies for the first time that music is a core subject of a well-rounded education for all kindergarten through 12th-grade students.

Legislators voted for ESSA on a bipartisan basis and included a recommendation that Title IV block grants be funded at $1.65 billion annually. In fiscal year 2017, $400 million in grants were sent to the states, but the 2018 budget proposal from the president reduces that to zero.

"Last year was the 'Thank You' tour," Mary Leuhrsen, NAMM director of public affairs and government relations, told delegates in preparation for their work. "Thank you for passing ESSA. Thank you for making sure the language is where we want it to be. This is called the 'Get It Done' tour because quite frankly, we're here to put on some pressure. We're going to put pressure on the system to fund what was outlined and authorized in education policy.

"We want to ensure that the well-rounded policies that we worked 10 years to achieve are adequately funded, so states have the flexibility and local communities have the flexibility to use those funds for a well-rounded education."

Delegates went into nearly 200 meetings with legislators and their staffs with a clear message — fund Title IV for the complete $1.65 billion and fund the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. During meetings, both Republican and Democratic legislators were clear that the President's budget serves as a starting point. Many called it "dead on arrival," stating that they believe Title IV will be funded at current levels. The question then became does that mean $400 million or $1.65 billion. Last year's budget covers only a portion of the fiscal year.

Fly-in delegates began the week of advocacy with a day of service on May 22 at Jefferson Middle School Academy in D.C. They worked with students, teaching them ukulele and drums as well as cleaning up the band room and evaluating the school's inventory of instruments for repair.

On May 23, delegates prepared for meetings with a day-long schedule of briefings at the Newseum from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, the National Governors Association, Americans for the Arts, the Center for Public Education, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Association for Music Education and with The New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks.

An in-depth breakdown of the week's events will appear in the August issue of Music Inc.