At the Arts Education Partnership Meeting in Charleston, SC this weekend attendees (including myself!) were treated to an extraordinary panel discussion. The moderator was Milt Goldberg who is known for his landmark report “A Nation at Risk.” The panelists, former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Arkansas Governor and Chair of both the Education Commission of the States and the National Governors Association Mike Huckabee.
The session was great from the standpoint of having two of today’s great education thinkers sharing the stage and focusing on the importance, role, and need to improve the status of arts education.
While there were some fairly predicable comments about the value of music and arts education there was one mild surprise: Secretary Riley stated he did support No Child Left Behind and the accountability measures but feels that it needs to be fully funded and adjusted to ensure we value all core subject.
Governor Huckabee stated that cutting arts programs under the guise of No Child Left Behind is “Just plain stupid!”
The biggest point from the session was from Governor Huckabee. He provided this prescription for what is ailing the arts education movement: If we want to truly change the landscape we need to “identify, recruit and elect to the state legislature people that support music and arts education.” Simple as that.
He stated: “A seat inside the legislature is better than 100 people on the steps.”
He’s right. Actually it is probably worth more. (Here in New Jersey we actually know how much a seat is worth … but I will save that for another time!)
That’s not to say that is will be easy. But, as the Governor said in Charleston “It’s Laboruos – Not Complicated.”
So therein lies the task. It will take hard work … but it is not complicated. The sooner we start, the sooner we will begin to see improvement. So get out your state legislative maps and lists and begin to build your relationships with the people who are there and identify some people who should be and them help get them elect to office. I have just spread out the New Jersey state electoral map on my floor.
And while we are talking about recruitment… what do you think about recruiting Governor Huckabee for a new seat … a seat in the White House …

3 Responses

  1. I can’t agree more with you and Governor Huckabee. Being a music educator in Arkansas, I know exactly what he is talking about…“A seat inside the legislature is better than 100 people on the steps.” It is so frustrating to work to improve arts education, only to have legislators that would rather water down requirements for classroom instruction or teacher certification.
    It is already bad enough that we have teachers teaching instrumental music classes because their “non-traditional” certification allows them, despite the fact that they have never played in a performing ensemble in their life!

  2. Before you start supporting Governor Huckabee for the highest office, I thought you might like to know the reality of his art and music in elementary education programs. This is the first year of the new legislation in Arkansas that states that every elementary student is required to receive 40 minutes per week of art and music. Which is of course is fantastic and exciting. Although 40 minutes is not enough it is a great start.
    However, the Arkansas state legislature “forgot” to actually fund this new mandate so in most districts you have art and music teachers who see upwards of 800 students per week, teach at two or even three schools per week and are provided with a budget of $2 per child for Art AND Music – for the year.
    While Governor Huckabee’s new art and music programs might sound good, I have trouble seeing how these new programs are going to survive even their first year.

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