Prevent Further Cuts to the NEA and Elimination of Arts Education!

by Laurie Baskin

in Advocacy

No More Cuts! We need to stand up as a theatre community and let our voices be heard in Washington. I believe that it is vitally important that the federal government support the arts – that we have a place at the table in terms of national discourse, public policy and funding – and that we ought to do everything we can to maintain our federal arts agency.

It’s that time again. I know it feels like we’ve just advocated to save NEA funding – and you’re right, we did. Because Congress took so long to complete the FY11 appropriations process, it went well into 2011. This Congress is once again poised to disproportionately cut NEA funding.

How deep is this cut? On July 7, the U.S. House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee voted to cut NEA funding by $20 million for FY12 from the current funding level of $155 million. The NEA already suffered a $12.5 million decrease in the FY11 budget. This proposal more than doubles the $9 million reduction recommended by President Obama for FY12. The Subcommittee’s nearly 13% cut is also disproportionate to the 7% cut to the overall spending levels in the entire Interior bill.

Here’s what you can do to help! The full House Appropriations Committee is slated to vote on the FY12 Interior Appropriations bill on Tuesday, July 12. Please send an email to your Member of Congress to protect NEA funding right away! Throughout this summer, and into the fall, Congress will continue the budget process and every vote will count.

Yet more cuts! Further, the House of Representatives will soon vote on a bill that would eliminate the Arts in Education program at the U.S. Department of Education. H.R. 1891 would eliminate 43 federal education programs, including the critical Arts in Education program that funds newly emerging education models in high-poverty schools that improve and provide equitable access to arts learning.

The lead sponsor of the bill, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA-52), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, has called the Arts in Education program “unnecessary.” This bill, which the House Education and Workforce Committee passed along party lines on May 25, is an even more serious threat than the annual federal funding measures, as it would permanently strip the language out of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that allows the Arts in Education program to be funded each year. You can hear Rep. Rush Holt (D-12-NJ) speak out against this elimination.

Take Action! I urge you to visit the Performing Arts Alliance website to contact your Members of Congress and ask them to protect the Arts in Education program.

We need to mobilize as other sectors do! If we care about these federal streams of money to the arts and arts education, we need to generate a lot of emails.

What would it take for you to send an email to your Member of Congress each time you receive an Action Alert from the Performing Arts Alliance? What if every theatre were to send 10 emails each time? There are currently 518 TCG member theatres across the country. If 5,180 emails hit Congress every time an arts issue came up for a vote, our sector would have impact. Imagine if each theatre sent 30 emails each time and the Hill was flooded with over 15,500 emails!

We know that trustees are fantastic advocates – if you don’t have staff capacity to lead the charge on advocacy at your theatre, could a trustee be that point person?

Each advocacy opportunity takes two minutes. Open the Action Alert email, click Take Action, personalize the message and hit Send. My vision is that everyone does advocacy – board members, staff, performers, technical personnel, audiences, students, parents, interns. What a difference we would make.