Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Developing Arts Education Policy at the Federal Level: The First 10 Months of the National Education Taskforce

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Developing Arts Education Policy at the Federal Level: The First 10 Months of the National Education Taskforce

Article excerpt

Three years ago I was asked to become an advisor on education issues to Nancy Pelosi, who at the time was the Congresswoman from San Francisco. I was pleased to agree. Shortly thereafter Ms. Pelosi made history by becoming the first woman House Minority Leader. In November of 2007, when the Democrats won majorities in both chambers of Congress, Leader Pelosi made history again by becoming the first woman Speaker of the House. Two days after the election, with the Speaker-to-be no longer needing my services, I was asked to begin advising Congressman George Miller, Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor. I agreed under one condition: Given the greater scope of my advising (effectively to the entire House of Representatives through the Committee), I would need a group of educators to advise me. My condition was accepted and the National Education Taskforce (the NET) was born. I began Googling prominent educators, sending each an invitation to join.

Nearly everyone I have invited has accepted. As I write this, the NET has about 100 members, two thirds of whom are women. Our membership includes African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, Hispanics, and Native Americans. It reaches from coast to coast with members from about half of the U.S. states and two from Canada.

Based on members' expertise and interests, the NET subdivided into three divisions: Educational Policy, Organizational Levels, and Academics. Each division has several committees. The Committee on the Arts falls under Academics. The NET's Advisory Board consists of the committee chairs. The Executive Board consists of the executive director, an associate director, and a secretary.

The NET is a child advocacy group. Teachers, administrators, staff, and othet groups within the education field advocate for their interests through their own professional groups. Children, on the other hand, cannot unionize. They cannot lobby. Therefore the NET advocates expressly for children in schools. To keep itself free of undue influence, it is a nonprofit 501c(3) organization. Because children are more effectively served if the NET works with people of all political stripes, it is nonpartisan. Because issues, however serious, come and go but relationships endure, the NET is based on relationships among its members rather than on issues as such.

The issue we have grappled with since the NET's inception is the renewal of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Most of the NET's committees have formulated advisory statements that, along with other information, are posted on our website at http://www.natedtaskforce.org

In July of 2007, three other NET members and I joined four members of the Institute for Language Education and Policy (an English Language Learner advocacy group led by James Crawford, a member of the NET) in Washington, DC. We were there to meet with the offices of Congress members including Representative Miller and Senator Ted Kennedy, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Miller and Kennedy are considered the co-authors of NCLB.

Over the course of two and a half days, we had meetings in the offices of 12 senators and 18 representatives. OnJuIy 12, Speaker Pelosi invited me to meet privately with her and her chief of staff. My description of the meeting, written with a bit of humor, appeared in the August edition of NETwork, the NET's newsletter, at http://www.natedtaskforce.org/NETwork/07/08_aug/Pelosi%20meeting.htm.

At every opportunity in our meetings with Congress members and staff, I argued the case for replacing NCLB's arts education language (which is almost nonexistent) with language that makes clear its importance to children's development. I also left documents summarizing my points. (I should add that the NET has also placed our materials with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. NET member Linda Darling-Hammond advises Senator Obama on education issues. If Mr. Obama becomes president, the NET's influence will extend to include the White House. …

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