Yesterday President Obama signed into law the stopgap spending bill that severely cut into education funding, including eliminating funding for the United States Department of Education’s arts education programs.
Here’s a little list of some of the cuts:
- Arts in Education–$40 million
- National Writing Project–$25.6 million
- Teach for America–$18 million
- Reading is Fundamental–$24.8 million
- National Board for Professional Teaching Standards–$10.7 million
- New Leaders for New Schools–$5 million
- We the People–$21.6 million
- Close Up fellowships–$1.9 million
- Exchanges With Historic Whaling and Trading Partners–$8.6 million
- Thurgood Marshall Legal Educational Opportunity program–$3 million
- B.J. Stupak Olympic Scholarships–nearly $1 million
For those of you that might think using the term “death panel” is in bad taste and hyperbolic, no matter how one might define the politically hijacked term, think again. These cuts may very well kill some very fine and important organizations, as well as programs, providing invaluable services for children across America. And if you’ve ever spent time in under-served urban schools, you would understand the great value of these programs.
It’s a stunning list, both big and small. Politically powerful (and able to withstand the hit), such as Teach for America and New Leaders for New Schools, as well as more under the radar programs such as the arts education initiatives at the US Department of Education.
For organizations like the National Writing Project, which depends on the feds for half of its budget, with the other half from local matching grants, this bill may very well be the equivalent of a death panel decision.
If you have the patience, click here for a detailed budget FY11 Education Department Budget document.
What is more, these funding lines, which are not earmarks by any reasonable definition, have been identified as such, thus providing cover for a hatchet job.
Keep this in mind: 100 democratic members of congress voted for this bill.
So, what does one make of all this?
Well, there is an interesting editorial in today’s New York Times: The Hollow Cry of Broke. In essence, based upon emerging polling data, it says that these cuts, as well as the attacks on labor, are an overreach. The editorial implies that these cuts and political attacks (which are all in my view a move to restore the nation to what we had in the Hoover administration) will ultimately result in a boomerang effect.
If you read these tea leaves closely, it might just give you a sense of the strategy developing in the White House and Democratic Party, something not quite discernible, as the Democrats struggle to with how to gain the rhetorical high ground.
But now voters are starting to notice the effects of these cuts and to get angry at the ideological overreach. A New York Times/CBS News poll published on Tuesday
showed that Americans oppose ending bargaining rights for public unions
by a majority of nearly two to one. And the poll sharply refutes the
post-Reagan Republican mantra that the public invariably abhors all tax
increases. Nearly twice as many people said they would prefer a tax
increase to cutting benefits of public employees or to cutting spending
Over the past two days, I have been in close touch with two colleagues who are leaders in terms of Federal issues and the arts: Narric Rome, of Americans for the Arts, and Heather Noonan, of the League of American Orchestras. (I do want to acknowledge and thank them for being such great colleagues.) We’ve been working together to get the word out and help craft action from all of those who have arts education programs funded by the United States Department of Education.
There is still some chance that a more positive result could come about through the next, long-term CR (continuing resolution). The one silver lining, perhaps, is that I have this feeling that this may just be one great opportunity to advance arts advocacy. Maybe it will take these sorts of events to create new possibilities for how the field can work together and with other sectors to advocate for children, education, and the arts.