ESEA Update, House of Representatives and Senate

United States House of Representatives

Last week the House took up H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, for the second time after the bill was pulled from the floor in February due to lack of votes. While none of the amendments were related to arts education or our AEFC agenda, the House bill does include references to arts education as part of the local block grant in Title I and in Title II with regard to professional development. The House passed H.R. 5 by a final vote of 218-213. All Democrats and 27 Republicans voted against the bill.

United States Senate

Beginning on July 7, 2015, the Senate debated and voted on amendments to the S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act. The Senate has not completed its work on this bill and is expected to continue the consideration of amendments throughout this week. As a reminder, the AEFC arts education agenda is well represented as part of this legislation. The AEFC agenda is well represented as part of the legislation including:
  • A definition of “core academic subjects” that includes the arts. While not leveraged effectively in current law, core academic subjects appears in several key locations in the bill (see below).
  • Clarity that Title I funds can be used for arts education. Specifically, Title I says that funds can be used for “programs, activities and courses in the core academic subjects.” As mentioned above, the term “core academic subjects” includes the arts.
  • The definition of core academic subjects appears in several other programs, thereby allowing these programs to have an arts education focus. For example, there is a new program that allows for the integration of core academic subjects into literacy programming and as an approach in the definition of extended learning time for schools looking to extend the school day.
  • Authorization of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which includes the ability to provide children in afterschool and expanded learning time programs with programs and activities in the arts.
  • A new Safe and Healthy Students initiative that allows for grants to school districts to be used for well-rounded educational experience for students which may include the use of music and the arts.
  • A literacy and arts education program, which is an essentially slimmed down versions of the existing School Library and Arts Education programs.
  • A number of references to “well-rounded educational experiences and programs” that seem to imply something other than the traditional subjects of math, science and English language arts as a focus. While this term is not defined in the bill, it may allow advocates at the local level (in addition to the references to core academic subjects) to leverage programs or funding for the arts.

What's Next?

If the Senate bill passes, which it is expected to do, the House and Senate will name conferees and move to a formal conference. We are encouraged and hopeful that we will be able to maintain the arts language in the mutually agreed upon bill. It is unknown if the conference committee will be named or convene prior to the August recess.