Strengthen Equitable Access to Arts Education in ESSA Implementation
The Every Student Succeeds Act firmly establishes that every child deserves access to a well-rounded education, and declares that federal education dollars may be used by states and local school systems to provide increased access to music and arts education. The highest poverty schools currently have the least access to music education, denying many students all of the advantages that a complete music education can provide. Orchestras work every day - through their programs, partnerships, and policy engagement - to increase access to music education in our nation's schools and communities.

Talking Points 

  • The arts and music are included as part of a "Well-Rounded Education" in federal law. This designation - alongside reading, math, science, and other subjects - is confirmation that the arts are essential to a complete education and belong in the main instructional day. Federal education funding (such as Title I, teacher training, and school improvement) is directed to support all aspects of a well-rounded education, including all disciplines of the arts.
  • The federal government has a significant role in ensuring that all students have access to an excellent, well-rounded education, in safe, supportive environments. But many school districts across the country are hindered by insufficient funding, resulting in inequitable distribution of resources. The Student Support & Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grants block grant in ESSA's Title IV is intended to correct some of these inequities, but it is dependent on a robust federal allocation.
  • There are huge, persistent disparities in access to arts education in the schools. The 2009-2010 U.S. Department of Education's Fast Response Survey System found that schools with a higher concentration of students in poverty were less likely to offer arts education.
  • On July 24, 2019 the National Assessment Governing Board announced major changes to its assessment schedule, including plans to discontinue assessing the arts. The most recent NAEP in the arts, known as “the nation’s report card,” was released in April 2017. Funding is needed for updating and administering the NAEP Arts report card to include measurements in dance, media arts, theater, music, and visual arts in order to assess the condition of arts education.


Advocates may find of interest this letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona from national arts and educational organizations to suggest how the Department can better support the arts.

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