I hope you have had a very productive school year full of high quality, sequential, standards- based units of instruction, and wonderful performances. We are the protectors and advocates of our beautiful art form, and we also possess a noble profession. Closing down a school year can be both enjoyable and sorrowful at the same time. So let’s make the best out of the time we have left in this academic year. I have chosen to share some information with you in this article from both the state and federal levels. My hope is that you will read through, get motivated, and take action where necessary.
Arts Alliance Meeting
I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Alabama Arts Education Alliance Pre-Summit Conference. Representatives from Theater, Visual Arts, Dance, and of course Music were present and we discussed many topics throughout the day. Our organization was the largest and most organized of the Professional Organizations represented at the Summit, but the other areas were well represented by distinguished professionals and contributed great ideas to the discussions. The meeting was administrated by Andy Meadows, Arts Specialist with the Alabama State Department of Education. Some of the topics of the day were organizations’ strengths and weaknesses, Artistic Literacy Consortium, advocacy, Arts in Alabama Schools Month, Arts Signing Day, certification pathways, On-line arts courses, Arts Mega Conference, and next steps for each area of discussion.
NAfME Monthly Update Highlights
A grassroots action alert has been activated for members to write to Congress in support of fully funding Title IV, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act following the release of the President’s budget for FY20, where he zeroed out appropriations for this section of the education law. Title IV, Part A is known as Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) and is a block formula grant with a wide range of allowable uses. It allows States, LEA’s, schools, and local communities to provide students with access to a well-rounded education, improve school conditions for student learning, and improve the use of technology in order to improve academic achievement and digital literacy. I encourage you to contact your Federal Representatives in Washington and encourage them to fully fund Title IV, Part A. In other news, NAfME membership numbers are strong and growing. Active Members, Retired Members, Collegiate Members, TRI-M Chapters, and TRI-M Members all showed growth from 2018 to 2019.
Teacher Shortage and Teacher Raises
There is a nationwide teacher shortage coming, and depending on which data you look at, it could be disastrous for schools and students. Alabama is no exception. Many, including our state Superintendent Eric Mackey, are calling it a crisis. This situation is not expected to drastically impact our profession, but we must always be vigilant. According to the Director of Human Resources with the Jefferson County School System, prior to 2013, there were approximately 12% of high school graduates who pursued education as a career. Since 2013 that number has dropped to 4%. Teachers who entered service after 2013 are only staying in the teaching profession for an average of 5 years. 2013 is the year that the Tier II Retirement plan was put into place. The teachers in Alabama who were hired after 2013 have no option for early retirement at 25 years of service, cannot retire until 62 years of age, have a lower percentage donated to their retirement accounts, and cannot accumulate sick leave time towards retirement credit. Recently a plan was introduced to allow Tier II employees to opt into a new Tier III plan which allows employees to serve for 30 years, and they would have the same percentage donated toward their retirement as Tier I employees. While Tier III would be an improvement over Tier II, it is still not equivalent to Tier I. Let’s hope that our Tier II generation teachers are afforded the opportunity at a better future. In other news from Montgomery, Governor Kay Ivey has proposed a 4% pay raise for school employees next year. PEEHIP is also fully funded in the Governor’s plan, so there would be no insurance increase for teachers.
Last Summer Congresswoman Velazquez and Senator Testor introduced the Guarantee Access to Arts and Music Education (GAAME) into discussions on Capitol Hill. The National Association for Music Education applauds the introduction of and wholeheartedly endorses the GAAME Act (H.R. 1676 and S. 885). If passed, this legislation would provide language articulating the ability for school districts to use their Title I, Part A funds to improve access to sequential music and arts education for disadvantaged and low-income students, including programs taught by certified music educators. The GAAME Act’s reinforcement that Title I’s school-wide and targeted assistance funds can be used to support music and arts education aligns with NAfME’s mission, which is to advance music education by promoting the understanding and making of music by all. Studies have shown that in-school music programs are highly valuable in engaging students by improving their overall participation and attendance, especially for students deemed at-risk. Furthermore, the benefits of music programs transcend typical quantifiable markers of academic achievement. Music Education at all grade levels has also been shown to support the development of essential 21st-century skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration, and creative problem-solving. When students are denied a quality music education, they are denied the ability to hone skills valuable for success in life. I have a feeling your Alabama Advocacy Team will be advocating for the GAAME Act on Capitol Hill when we visit Washington, D.C. in June.
Summer PD Opportunities
Almost every day I receive an email (or ten) about a summer professional development opportunity, some of them in very desirable locales. Music Educators might be the best education professionals at seeking continuing education and professional development. We are also a group who is typically very willing to share what we have learned with others in our beloved field. So whether you plan to travel or stay more local, I would encourage you to seek a great professional development opportunity this summer to both increase your effectiveness in the classroom and benefit your students. Our students deserve the best “us” that we can be.
As we close down this school year, I would encourage you to get plenty of rest, take care of your own health, and finish strong. Teach as hard as you can all the way through your last opportunity to see your students. We are all tired and weary at this time of year, as are our students. We all see the finish line together, but we can’t win the race if we stop short of the finish line. So let’s be great examples to our students, and finish strong.
Music Education is AWESOME in Alabama!
Greg Gumina, President
Alabama Music Educators Association