How does it work when two directionally challenged music educators try to navigate Washington D.C.? The answer: beautifully! in June of 2015. One of the two was always getting turned around and by working together, they always ended up in the right place. Likewise, OAKE and AOSA are on similar paths towards music education for all. By working together, OAKE and AOSA have a greater opportunity to make this goal a reality.
The National Association for Music Education created the Music Education Policy Roundtable (MEPR) in June 2012. According to NAfME, “the Roundtable shield has come to represent the unification of a great many music education organizations unified under a single policy banner, working together in efforts to achieve a consensus set of federal legislative recommendations, on behalf of the profession and all of those who stand to benefit from its contributions to education.” OAKE and AOSA are proud to be a part of this powerful advocacy consortium.
The Hill Day events began with a meeting of the MEPR. This included Chris Woodside, Assistance Executive Director for NAfME, Ronny Lao, Special Assistant – Center for Advocacy & Constituency Engagement for NAfME, Kelly Foster Griffin, Past President of OAKE, Tiffany English, Vice President of AOSA, as well as representatives from two other MEPR member organizations. The productive conversation included discussions regarding grassroots advocacy, increased advocacy tools, a larger advocacy presence via Facebook and Twitter, and more avenues for organizations to contribute to and dialogue. NAfME is listening and wants involvement as we all work towards our collective goal of music education for all.
The following day brought a trip to Capitol Hill to participate in meetings with legislators and legislative staffers. The goal was to explain the value of music education for all children, including elementary aged children, and to lobby for its inclusion as core curriculum. The Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177) contains language specifying that music is core curriculum for the first time in federal legislation. This is a very exciting and important time for music educators. The first meeting that Kelly and Tiffany participated in was with the Wisconsin NAfME delegation and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). This meeting was extremely productive and has since led Senator Baldwin to propose the “Opportunity Dashboard of Core Resources” amendment. This amendment requires states to document access to core subjects, including music, and requires states to take steps to rectify inequities. Following this meeting, Kelly and Tiffany participated in additional meetings throughout the day making the case for the importance of music education with several lawmakers’ offices. At each meeting, Kelly and Tiffany explained the importance of music education for young children and shared information about OAKE and AOSA respectively. Giving these brochures and DVDs to legislators and their staffers brought the conversation to a personal level and gave a visual connection to real children. Having OAKE and AOSA on the radar of American lawmakers is very powerful for both organizations.
As Kelly and Tiffany explored the city and worked their way from meeting to meeting, strong bonds of friendship and a relationship of mutual support were forged. OAKE and AOSA have a shared goal of ensuring all children have the opportunity for music instruction. Working with NAfME as part of the MEPR shows a united front between two of the most dynamic national music education associations; this relationship can only continue to sow the seeds for positive change in the future.
While it is vital that OAKE and AOSA continue the fight for music education for all, there is also a very important role that individual music educators can play. Educate yourself on the issues and make yourself aware of where your lawmakers stand. Express your opinion to those lawmakers. You are your own best advocate and lawmakers will listen. As Kelly and Tiffany were told, the best thing you can do is to “keep beating the drum” of advocacy. It is vital!