What We're Reading: Bonamici Introduces Legislation to Increase Access to Arts

During National Arts in Education Week, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) introduced legislation to increase access to the arts for students.

Bonamici’s Arts Education for All Act – introduced with Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM) – will help close gaps in access to arts education by supporting and encouraging arts education and programming for young children, K-12 students, and youth and adults involved in the justice system.

“The arts spark creativity, critical thinking, and empathy in students,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “These skills benefit and enrich students throughout their lives regardless of what path they take. It is unacceptable that there is less access to arts education for students from Black, Latino, and low-income families, especially when research shows that students who have arts education perform better in math, reading, and writing. I wrote the Arts Education for All Act to help address these disparities. And with student mental health as a top concern, the arts can help bring healing and wellness.”

“Despite the positive impact arts education has on children’s lives and well-being, the arts are often the first programs to be cut in schools. As ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees arts and humanities funding, and as co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus, I am continuously advocating for the arts in Congress. And while I’m grateful for existing federal support for arts education, programs should be more accessible for students and educators to get more involved,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “Fortunately, Mainers recognize that the arts are powerful tools for development and creativity—which is exemplified by our thriving and vibrant communities. Our Arts Education for All Act will help ensure our educators have the resources they need to maintain and expand arts programming so every American child – no matter their zip code or background – has access to an enriched, creative learning experience.”

"Art teachers across my district shared stories of the power that arts education has on our youngest children. It opens up a love for learning and allows them to thrive in new and exciting ways. The arts also help us celebrate our cultures, our identities, and communities," said Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández. "I'm proud to join Rep. Bonamici on the Arts Education for All Act to give educators the support they need to expand arts programming experiences for children of all ages. It will ensure they can foster a learning environment that promotes creativity, expression, and healing through art."

The Arts Education for All Act has been endorsed by more than 100 national, state, and local organizations and individuals, including Americans for the Arts and Grantmakers in the Arts. Supporters from Oregon include the City of Portland.

“The Arts Education for All Act will help bring the power of arts education to early childhood programs, low-income K12 students and systems-involved youth on a scale we haven’t seen before,” said Eddie Torres, President and CEO, Grantmakers in the Arts. “By empowering childcare, K12 schools, and programs serving systems-involved youth, this bill has the potential to enrich lives and expand educational opportunities for millions,” said Eddie Torres, President and CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts. “The arts community, but most importantly the children of our nation, owe a great deal of thanks to the innovative and continued leadership of Congresswoman Bonamici on this critical legislation.”

“The National Association for Music Education is proud to endorse the Arts Education for All Act, introduced by Representative Suzanne Bonamici,” said NAfME President Scott R. Sheehan. “As an association, we work towards a future where every child has access to a high-quality music education that helps foster their creative potential. The Arts Education for All Act brings us closer to that future, by increasing the number of arts educators in schools, ensuring arts instruction is standards based and sequential, and offering a pathway for evaluating existing arts courses in schools. The Arts Education for All Act would also expand arts programming to youth in the juvenile justice system, bringing the positive benefits of an arts education to students who previously lacked access to this vital resource.”

“School budgets often don't include much – if any – funding for related arts classes and programs. There simply isn't enough support for these offerings – even though research has shown that the arts stimulate the mind. The Carnegie Center especially promotes the literary arts. When school children engage in creative writing classes, their overall writing skills and self-expression also improve. This bill would help ensure that students get access to related arts classes, like creative writing, that will help them explore and express their voices.” – Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning

The full list of endorsements can be found here.

The Arts Education for All Act will support and encourage arts education and programming for youth and adults in early learning centers, K-12 schools, and juvenile justice facilities by:

  • Improving arts programming in caregiving and early education
  • Providing support for arts access in K-12 schools
  • Making professional development for arts educators a priority
  • Increasing the usability and accessibility of data on access to arts education
  • Integrating the arts in afterschool and summer learning programs
  • Facilitating arts education in the justice system
  • Allowing arts education to be used in reentry and recidivism reduction efforts

A summary of the Arts Education for All Act can be found here, and the full text can be found here.