From Washington

Published in: GIA Reader, Vol 12, No 1 (Winter 2001)

Shelley Feist

This issue introduced "From Washington," a new column contributed by Shelley Feist, associate, National Culture Program, The Pew Charitable Trusts. The column provides readers with information on policy and regulatory matters at the federal level affecting nonprofit arts and culture. The aim is to present brief reports on timely but underreported items. The intention over time is to present a broad view of congressional, administrative, and Washington DC-based interest group activity surrounding legislation, regulation, grant program announcements, and other federal-level actions or inaction affecting the arts and culture.

Awards for Excellence in Arts Education
On November 20, 2000, President Clinton signed into law the Congressional Recognition for Excellence in Arts Education Act (Public law 106-533). The legislation grew from the personal interests of Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) in calling attention to the need for comprehensive arts education in the schools. Cochran was convinced to move ahead with the legislation after reviewing the findings in the 1999 report, Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education. He first introduced a bill in June 1999 that used as its model the creation of the president's Physical Fitness Award Program. The Act cites Gaining the Arts Advantage and the 1997 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which found that students lack sufficient opportunity for participatory learning in the arts.

The Act calls for the formation of a Congressional Recognition for Excellence in Arts Education Board comprised of four members of the U.S. Senate, four members of the House of Representatives, and a non-voting executive director. Additionally, an advisory board of fifteen members from outside the legislative branch will be set up to advise the board. Initially awards will be available only to schools that provide comprehensive, sequential arts learning; that integrate the arts in the curriculum; and that actively involve the community. The Act authorizes the board to make awards to individual students should it decide to do so in the future. No federal funds were appropriated to the award. The Act provides for a U.S. Treasury trust fund to be established with non-federal funds. To follow developments on the Act, contact the Arts Education Partnership, c/o the Council of Chief State School Officers, (202) 326-8693.

Grants for the Arts in Education
Congressional appropriators provided an unprecedented $10 million to the U.S. Department of Education for FY 2001 competitive grants to school districts, state educational agencies, institutions of higher education, and state and local nonprofit arts organizations. Grants will be made to support model professional development programs for music educators and others, community arts partnerships to support programs for at-risk children and youth, and model programs that integrate arts into the regular elementary and secondary school curriculum. Total FY 2001 funding appropriated for the U.S. Department of Education for arts in education activities (including funds that are passed through to fund education activities of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Very Special Arts) has risen from $9 million in FY 1997 to $28 million in FY 2001.

Technology Opportunities Program
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has announced it will award $42.5 million in Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) matching grants in FY 2001. This is a substantial increase from FY 2000 when NTIA awarded $12.5 million in grants. The appropriations conference report (Rpt 106-1005) specifies that funds may be used for the "planning and construction of telecommunications networks for the provision of educational, cultural, health care, public information, public safety, or other social services."

A number of notable culture-related TOP grants were awarded in FY 2000: to Cleveland Museum of Arts to use broadband video to provide cultural programming for senior citizens and disabled adults where they live and congregate; to the North Adams (MA) Department of Technical and Media Services in partnership with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) to house a Community Computer Access Center; and to Zeum of San Francisco to create a model for developing a technology and arts curriculum targeted to urban youth.

FY 2001 Appropriations Earmarks
Members of Congress closed the second session of the 106th Congress with a show of great support for cultural facilities and cultural programs in their districts. The number of special projects of all kinds was up dramatically in the FY 2001 appropriations bills, with cultural facilities and cultural programs well represented among earmarks. Cultural arts and visitors' centers, specific museum exhibits, museum construction, theater renovation, a mural project, and one project described as an "edutainment" center are found in the bills funding the Department of the Interior, Veterans Administration & Department of Housing and Urban Development (VA/HUD), and the Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill, which now funds the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Funding amounts for construction and renovation ranged from several thousand to up to $3.5 million provided for a single museum.

Copyright debate not dormant
The 107th Congress could bring renewed debate on questions related to copyright that were not fully resolved by, or in fact that stem from, passage in 1998 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Chief among the topics that could be discussed are clarification of whether copyright owners can charge for "temporary" or "ephemeral" copies not intelligible to the consumer (such as content of a digital file as it travels via the Internet), and potential requirements to force content owners to license their materials to Internet distributors at reasonable rates. For updates on regulatory, legal, and legislative action related to the DMCA: Digital Future Coalition, Educause, and Electronic Frontier Foundation.