imageThe Issue: Arts Education

In December 2015, Congress passed bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) in landslide votes. ESSA, the current iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) includes art and music in the definition of a "well-rounded education." Within ESSA, there are several opportunities for the federal government to fund and support equitable access to arts education for K-12 students around the country.

Assistance to Arts Education Program

Despite facing elimination within budgets proposed by the administration, the Assistance for Arts Education program within ESSA has recieved consistent bipartisan support from Congress year after year, with the programming recieving a $500,000 increase to be funded at a level of $31 million in FY 2021. For FY 2022, Americans for the Arts urges Congress to appropriate $40 million to the program in order to continue multi-year projects in midstream and implement new projects to help arts educators adapt to the post-pandemic teaching landscape.The Assistance for Arts Education (AAE) program, authorized under Title IV of ESSA, has directed arts education grants to more than 230 congressional districts in 33 states. These grants can be used to support standards-based arts education, integration of arts instruction into other subject areas, arts education projects targeted for low-income families and students with disabilities, and professional development for arts educators.

To learn more about AAE programs, check out the Funding the Assistance for Arts Education Grant Program issue brief from the 2020 Congressional Arts Handbook

Eligibility under Titles I, II, and IV of ESSA

Along with the specified arts education funding under AAE, there are several other avenues for the arts to recieve funding within ESSA. Title I, which focuses on providing personnel, instruction, and interventions to help close achievement gaps, can be used to address the huge, persistent disparities to access to arts education in public schools. Title II, which focuses on preparing, training, and recruiting high quality teachers, principals, and other school educators, can be utilized to obtain professional development funding for arts educators. Finally, Title IV, Part A, which contains the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, may be used to support the arts as part of a well-rounded education.

Americans for the Arts urges Congress to fully fund ($1.6 billion) the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants provisions of ESSA under Title IV, Part A, as well as to make explicit the opportunity for the arts to help achieve the equitable access objectives of Title I and the professional development opportunities for arts educators under Title II.

National Arts Education Studies

The ability to successfully provide, evaluate, and advocate for equitable arts education programs on a national scale relies on the existence of accurate and up-to-date data. Particularly important are the Fast Response Survey System in Arts Education study, which measures arts education access in various communities around the country, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which measures student proficiency in dance, theater, music, and visual arts. The most recent FRSS study in Arts Education was released in 2012, meaning that much of the data may no longer be applicable. While the newest NAEP data for the arts is more recent (published in 2016), the arts were recently removed from the 10 year calendar of assessments by the National Assessment Governing Board. The continuation of the FRSS and NAEP are serve as invaluable sources of data in understanding the state of arts on a national scale.

Americans for the Arts urges Congress to provide at least $4 million to the Institute of Education Sciences Fast Response Survey System in Arts Education study and to restore and appropriately fund the arts in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

U.S. Department of Education Seal

Federal Resources

State and Local Resources

  • Start here with an overview of the Seven Basics to Know about ESSA and Arts Education
  • As part of their State Policy Pilot Program, Americans for the Arts produced a webinar about the ins and outs of ESSA
  • The Arts Education Partnership publishes a wealth of resources to help states and districts utilize ESSA for Arts Education
  • The updated Arts Education Action Kit compiles tools and resources to help advocate for the arts within local school systems
  • The National PTA in Partnership with Americans for the Arts recently released an ArtsEd Leaders Guide to help parents evaluate and improve arts education programming and policies in their districts

Take Action on this Issue