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Take Action to Support Arts Education
By Laura Day Giarolo and Brandon Gryde
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Original Content3/1/2011

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The continuing resolution passed by the House last Tuesday avoids a government shutdown and gives lawmakers two weeks to come to terms on a budget agreement for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which lasts through September 30. This resolution cuts $4 billion in domestic spending, including the U.S. Department of Education-funded Arts in Education program (currently funded at $40 million), which supports newly emerging education models in high-poverty schools that improve arts learning. The loss of this program could result in the elimination of funding for more than 200 multi-year projects.

As the House and Senate still have to finalize the long-term budget resolution, there’s still time for arts education advocates to make a difference. Below are simple and effective strategies to increase awareness around this issue.

  • Join a Campaign
    A big part of being heard is being seen. March is Arts Education, Youth Arts and Music in Our Schools Month. Use these designated holidays as an opportunity to share with anyone and everyone the impact arts education has on students and communities. Events held in conjunction with these national campaigns can tell a compelling story in the media, so be sure to invite bloggers and journalists from your community’s newspaper, radio and television stations.

  • Speak Up
    Americans for the Arts is collecting signatures of advocates who promise to testify on behalf of arts education at their local school board meetings throughout the month of March. Over 400 ordinary individuals who support arts education in their local schools and want to make their voices heard have signed up, and will be able to access an advocacy training webinar courtesy of Americans for the Arts. (The webinar will only be available to those who sign up to testify with Americans for the Arts, or who are members of the organization.) Add your voice: click here to sign up to speak at your local meetings this month.

  • Send an Invitation
    Inviting state and locally elected officials to awards ceremonies, performances and exhibitions can be a great way for them to see and hear first-hand the impact the arts have in the communities they represent. This personal experience can help legislators realize what a far-reaching, positive impact and extraordinary return on investment the small sum of money dedicated to arts education can have.

  • Write a Letter
    OPERA America is a founding member of The Performing Arts Alliance, which provides policy updates and an easy way to contact your elected officials with customizable digital letters. Your representatives were elected to serve you, their constituents, and you have the right to tell them what is important to you. For those legislators who support the arts and education, sharing your thoughts through a thank you letter can be incredibly valuable, and they can use your stories to help make the case for further support among their colleagues in Congress.

  • Branch Out
    Explore issues and groups that might not have a direct connection to arts education: attend a meeting about STEM, talk to social entrepreneurs, or build relationships with your local Boys and Girls clubs or AARP. Walk out the door of your organization and your home, and engage people who are part of your personal community. Ask your friends and family, individuals at your place of worship or parents at your child’s school to support the arts.

If you will be traveling to Washington, D.C. and would like more information on advocacy or scheduling a visit with your representatives on Capitol Hill, contact Brandon Gryde, director of government affairs, at BGryde@operaamerica.org or by calling 202-375-7523.
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