Advocating for the Arts? Tell a Story

Posted by Robert Lynch On April - 24 - 2015
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

As I reflect on the recent National Arts Advocacy Day and the several hundred visits to the offices of our Congressional representatives and senators that took place, I can think of hundreds of stories to tell. Each of the nearly 550 arts advocates from all fifty states, members of Congress, and artists who joined us in Washington, D.C. to advocate for the arts on Capitol Hill came with a story about how the arts have transformed them and the people around them. To many, the arts have brought hope and fortitude, been a partner in solving community problems, and provided Americans with role models, identity, and opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »

Net Neutrality and the Arts

Posted by Kate McClanahan On March - 6 - 2015
Kate McClanahan

Kate McClanahan

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved new rules for enforcing net neutrality. Independent agency rulemaking might sound like a sleepy topic, but over 4 million people – a record-setting number – sent in comments. What does the rule mean for artists and arts organizations?

First, what is “net neutrality?”

It’s the idea that your Internet Service Provider (ISP), like Verizon or Comcast, doesn’t discriminate when it comes to Internet traffic—meaning throttling or blocking legal content that you want to access or share. A company also can’t pay your ISP to speed up service for certain sites. Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. House Votes Impacting Arts Education

Posted by Narric Rome On February - 26 - 2015
Narric Rome

Narric Rome

Last night it was confirmed that the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to consider over three dozen amendments to “The Student Success Act” (HR 5), a bill to reauthorize federal education programs. This is a legislative effort last completed 13 years ago through the No Child Left Behind Act. There is a great need to improve upon that outdated legislation.

Through Friday’s floor consideration in the House, members of Congress will have an opportunity to vote on HR 5 and a Democratic alternative – but both bills are expected to receive partisan vote outcomes. Read the rest of this entry »

Narric Rome

Narric Rome

If you have a generally pessimistic view of how our federal government works, and have been distressed about lack of productivity by Congress in recent years, read this quote from Senate education committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and then you can stop reading this blog post.

I know that there will have to be 60 votes to move out of the Senate, 60 votes to go to conference, and 60 votes to pass a bill in the end. That takes working with all senators here, including those on the other side. I also know … that if we want it to be a law, it takes a presidential signature and that president today is President Obama.”

With a U.S. Senate of 56 Republicans and 46 Democrats and Independents, a GOP House and a Democratic Administration, it’s hard to see how federal education reform legislation can be successfully passed with this divided government.

However, if you enjoy a good policy debate, then welcome to a new round of Reauthorizing the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA)! Read the rest of this entry »

Kate McClanahan

Kate McClanahan

You might be wondering what is happening in Congress as the lights twinkle towards year-end. You might be seeing pictures of ducks, a tribute to the current, post-election session that’s termed “lame-duck.” All the while, retiring and defeated members of Congress take up life in cubicles, losing their office space, most of their equipment, and sometimes even most of their staff. Yet, Congress is still in session. Policy is still happening, and deals are ever-changing. Here’s what you can best expect in these final days of the 113th Congress as it impacts the arts:

Tax Extenders

If you’re a follower of Congress and the nonprofit community, you’ll know that over 50 policy provisions that can affect your taxes expired a year ago. Read the rest of this entry »

What the Midterm Elections Mean for the Arts: Summary of 2014 Election

Posted by Nina Ozlu Tunceli On November - 6 - 2014
Nina Ozlu Tunceli

Nina Ozlu Tunceli

Narric Rome

Narric Rome

In this year’s midterm elections, Republicans took back the Senate, kept control of the House and won governorships in 31 states and counting. What does that mean for you and for us, as strong advocates of the arts and arts education? Here we break down the national, state, and local results – and their potential impact on the arts:

 

In Congress

The U.S. Senate will be Republican-led. This means all Senate committees will see new chairmen, and since those committees control and recommend federal spending, these new chairmen could have significant impact on federal arts funding. Read the rest of this entry »

My Turn: For a Humane Tax Reform

Posted by John R. Killacky On August - 21 - 2013
John R. Kilacky

John R. Killacky

Vermont, like many states, is considering comprehensive tax reform. Committees in the Vermont Senate and House developed proposals last legislative session and systemic changes seem high on the agenda for the 2014 session. Key components focus on increasing the portion of personal income that is taxed by capping deductions, including charitable contributions.

If passed, this revision to the tax code would negatively affect the work of nonprofit organizations statewide.

Vermont’s robust nonprofit sector comprises nearly 4,000 human, social service, educational, religious, and cultural organizations, ranking us No. 1 per capita in the nation. The Vermont Community Foundation reported in 2010 that these agencies generate $4.1 billion in annual revenue and represent 18.7 percent of our gross state product.

Nonprofits deliver critical services that government alone cannot provide: sheltering, caring for, and feeding those less fortunate; early childhood education; and cultural enrichment are just a few examples. Nonprofits include schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, community health clinics, workforce development centers, mentoring programs, homeless shelters, food banks, theaters, and galleries.

Some focus on specific populations: providing safe spaces for women, LGBT youth, refugees, the disabled, and migrant workers. They range from small, volunteer-run groups to huge universities. Although more than 80 percent of Vermont’s nonprofits operate with budgets of less than $250,000 each year.

By delivering mission-related programs, nonprofits improve lives and transform communities. Investing in early intervention is more cost-effective than dealing with societal dysfunction later in life. Food and shelter vs. homelessness, after-school tutoring vs. illiteracy, involved children vs. disengaged teens, job skills training vs. unemployment, community vs. isolation — consider the alternatives. Read the rest of this entry »

Congressional Appropriators Consider Cutting NEA in Half

Posted by Narric Rome On August - 1 - 2013
Full Cmte 4

Full Appropriations Committee Yesterday, July 31

In mid-July, the appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) met to approve a funding bill for fiscal year 2014, which begins on October 1st. Their bill calls for the NEA to receive a 49% cut totaling $71 million, which would bring the agency’s budget down to $75 million, a level not seen since 1974!

Yesterday, the full appropriations committee began their consideration of the bill, expected to take a few hours. However, they faced numerous amendments and rising tempers, and everyone has had an eye on adjourning for August – so they suspended the committee markup until September.

Before they stopped, they did consider an amendment offered by senior appropriator Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Rep. David Price (D-NC) to fund the NEA (and the National Endowment for the Humanities) to the president’s request of $154 million. The amendment was defeated along a party-line vote of 19-27.

The 49% budget cut that remains in place is shocking, but not necessarily surprising. Leading up to the committee’s action, the House of Representatives approved a budget resolution which included the sequester cuts of about 5% to agency budgets, and an overall funding plan that reduced the entire bill by 19%. So, arts advocates and those who were closely watching from the environmental and natural resource communities were not surprised to see significant cuts proposed. However, a 49% reduction to an independent federal agency is misguided, counterproductive, and entirely disproportionate.

Final FY 2013
(includes 5% sequester cut)

FY 2014 President’s
Request

FY 2014 House Subcommittee
Proposal

National Endowment for the Arts

$138.4
million

$154.466 million

$75
million

National Endowment for the Humanities

$138.4
million

$154.466 million

$75
million

The arts community recognizes the challenges our elected leaders face in prioritizing federal resources. In fact, funding for the NEA has already been cut by more than $29 million over the past three years. These disproportionate cuts recall the dramatic decline of federal funding for the arts in the early 90s, from which the agency has still not recovered. Read the rest of this entry »

The Congressional Meat Grinder Cranks to Life

Posted by Narric Rome On June - 24 - 2013
Narric Rome

Narric Rome

Ever since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) authorization formally ended in 2007, Congress has been trying to reauthorize it, but with very little success. You remember NCLB? It passed Congress with whopping margins of 381-41 in the House and 87-10 in the Senate and President Bush signed it into law with big smiles from education champions like Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and House committee leaders John Boehner (R-OH) and George Miller (D-CA). That was then.

Since then, NCLB has been attacked each year by education advocates on all sides and the Obama Administration has gone so far as to grant waivers to 37 states allowing them to opt out of many of the law’s regulations, which will remain in place until the law is reauthorized. It’s been sad as education leaders, in and out of Congress, proclaim the “urgent” need to end the labeling of failing schools, to curb the “unintended consequences” that have been a fundamental problem with NCLB. Years have passed without even a floor vote on replacement legislation.

I’ve known Capitol Hill staff who were hired to work on the reauthorization (now referred to as the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA)) who have given up waiting and moved to jobs off the Hill. Read the rest of this entry »

Candidates Weighing in on Arts Education

Posted by Doug Israel On June - 21 - 2013

Doug Israel

Doug Israel

After years of school budget cuts due to the economic downturn, and a decade of No Child Left Behind-inspired education policies, there is a movement afoot in districts across the country to reinvigorate the school day with a rich and engaging curriculum.

Parents, students, and educators have been beating the drum about the narrowed curriculum and are making the case to expand access to arts, music, foreign languages, science, and other core subjects that have been marginalized in schools in recent years. Now candidates to be mayor in the country’s largest school district are weighing in on what arts education would look like under their leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

Share Your Arts Education Story at Arts Advocacy Day

Posted by Tim Mikulski On March - 11 - 2013

Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC is less than a month away and with the recent sequester cuts and still-looming budget battle to come, it is vitally important that members of Congress hear how important the arts are to you and your community in person.

Even the staunchest supporters of a tight fiscal policy believe in the value of arts education. In this new video, Senior Director of Federal Affairs and Arts Education Narric Rome provides a quick snapshot of the importance of federal arts education advocacy:

Arts Advocacy Day will take place April 8—9 at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park and the Cannon House Office Building on Capital Hill.

In addition, the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy will be an inspiring speech and performance by Grammy Award®-winning musician Yo-Yo Ma at The Kennedy Center at 6:30 p.m. on April 8. Tickets are included for Arts Advocacy Day participants and are still available to the public.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to add your voice to the chorus of those asking Congress to support the arts and arts education!

Sequester Cuts Cultural Agencies

Posted by Gladstone Payton On March - 4 - 2013
Gladstone Payton

Gladstone Payton

As you have no doubt been following in the headlines, specific parts of the federal budget, including that of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), have been impacted by a budgetary control called “sequestration” beginning last Friday.

This sequester, totaling $85 billion, will reduce funding to almost all areas of domestic social programs by about 5 percent, which would mean about $7.3 million at the NEA.

This cut has been expected ever since the congressional “supercommittee” of 2011 failed to find agreement on how to achieve $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years, either through spending cuts, raising revenue, or by a combination of both.

Since the possibility of the sequester was triggered, the White House’s Office of Management & Budget has alerted impacted federal agencies to prepare for it by withholding grant competitions, utilizing employee furloughs, reduced service, and other budget cutting actions.

Because the sequester is an “across-the-board” cut to federal agencies, it reaches indiscriminately into every identified program and activity.

The NEA, the U.S. Department of Education (which administers the federal Arts in Education program) and many other cultural agencies such as the Smithsonian, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and others were forced to order these cuts by 11:59 p.m. ET on March 1.  Read the rest of this entry »

Pushing Charities Off the Fiscal Cliff?

Posted by Gladstone Payton On December - 18 - 2012

Gladstone Payton

Last week, I had the privilege of leading a diverse group of advocates from across the spectrum of the charitable sector to congressional offices in support of the Charitable Giving Coalition’s “Protect Giving – D.C. Days.”

You cannot escape talk of the oft-mentioned “fiscal cliff” and the looming lethal combination of major federal spending reductions (sequester) and expiring tax cuts (Bush-Obama tax extensions) set to take effect in January 2013.

“Protect Giving – D.C.” is an ongoing attempt to raise the direct policy concerns of the nation’s charitable sector and the possible devastating effect that last-minute negotiations to thwart the cliff may have on the tax policies around contributions to charity.

Needed: Federal Revenue

I warned in a previous post last June that the resulting mess that occurred after the failed “supercommittee” and debt limit deals of 2011 would probably complicate the bargaining positions of President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress as they struggle to forge an agreement to spare us some of the pain.

I hate to be right on this one…currently, they are at loggerheads on how to get more money returning to the federal coffers and avert the cliff. Read the rest of this entry »

On behalf of Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund, I wish to congratulate President Barack Obama and all of the national, state, and local elected leaders across the country who won their elections last night.

White House

President Obama will now have the opportunity to fully realize his vision for the arts and culture as he originally laid out four years ago. By successfully securing healthcare for artists, economic recovery funds that saved artists’ jobs through the National Endowment for the Arts, and ongoing support for appropriations that fund federal cultural agencies, the president has taken many steps in supporting the nonprofit arts sector.

We hope to encourage President Obama and his administration over the course of the next four years to remain focused on maintaining arts education in every classroom; allocating a larger budget for the arts as an economic generator for American jobs, products, and communities; and protecting charitable giving incentives that are the lifeblood of the nonprofit arts sector.

We are proud that the nonprofit arts sector has already played an important role in our nation’s economic recovery by generating $135 billion in economic activity, supporting 4.1 million jobs, and returning $22 billion in tax revenue back to federal, state, and local coffers.

Congress

The make up of the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate, with a few races still to be called, is poised to remain relatively the same with modest gains by Democrats in both chambers. In the House of Representatives, we are happy to report that Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) won re-election in a hard-fought campaign made difficult by New York’s congressional redistricting plan. Also, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) will continue to chair the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, ensuring a friend of the arts remains at the head of that very important panel. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts Aren’t Red or Blue

Posted by Robert Lynch On November - 7 - 2012

Robert L. Lynch

Every four years America gets another chance to make its voice heard. And every four years the American arts community, in a way, gets a bit of a fiscal makeover.

How is that? Well, it has to do with how the nonprofit arts in America are funded and how policy affects those funding sources. And every four years, no matter who wins elections across our country, there are new policymakers in town.

Roughly 10 percent of the $61 billion aggregate budgets of the nonprofit arts in America comes from government—mostly local and then state government and finally federal sources. Yes, this is a tiny portion of the whole, and it is actually a lot smaller than many people, including many politicians, think. This 10 percent is indeed a small amount compared to the 30 percent the private sector—(mostly) individuals—chips in and the 60 percent that comes from earned and investment income.

But that 10 percent is critical in what is a very conservative funding model for arts in our country. I call this model conservative because a very modest government investment leverages more than 60 times as much private and earned revenue to create a whole industry and support millions of jobs. How?

A $146 million investment from the federal government directly leverages close to $5 billion more in local and state government investment, which in turn helps leverage another $50 billion to create the $61 billion nonprofit arts industry in America.

This model has helped grow an industry from a handful of organizations in 1965—when the federal cultural funding agencies like National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) came into being—to more than 110,000 arts businesses today. Read the rest of this entry »