At the eleventh hour on April 15, Congressional leaders in Washington struck a Fiscal Year 2011 budget compromise to avoid a government shutdown, which includes $155 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and $25.5 million for the Arts in Education programs at the U.S. Department of Education. The agreement finalizes the rest of FY11 funding. Thanks in part to advocacy by the Recording Academy, Congress has restored a portion of the Arts in Education funding and protected the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) from more drastic cuts.
NEA: In February, the House of Representatives voted to decrease funding for the NEA by $43.1 million (nearly 26%) to a level of $124.4 million for FY11. The Senate did not pass this bill. The $155 million provided for the NEA in the final funding bill is a $12.5 million cut from the current level of $167.5 million. While any cut to the agency is a setback to the substantial progress made in re-building the NEA''s budget after the deep 40% cut in the mid-''90s, the $155 million allocation is higher than both the initial House bill ($124.4 million) and the President''s current funding request ($146.3 million).
Arts in Education: On March 2, 2011, both the House and Senate agreed to eliminate a number of small education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, including the complete defunding of the Arts in Education program, a $40 million fund that supports competitive grants and national initiatives. The final funding bill includes $25.5 million for the Arts in Education fund—enough to continue the next year of funding for multi-year grants currently in progress, with $10 million available for additional arts education expenditures.
In a climate of historic budget slashing, the partial restoration of Arts in Education funding is a true victory, thanks in large part to the leadership of Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) and the efforts of grassroots advocates who quickly mobilized to tell their stories about the value of arts education.
Victor Ledin is a Grammy-nominated classical producer and a governor of the San Francisco chapter of the Recording Academy.