2016 Advocacy Day

Be warned, this is a call to action.

Action that will lead to results. Positive dialog is starting among government leaders and business media in recognizing the truths about fine art education, and in some cases action is taking place. We have made connections in Illinois, and require your assistance in adding to the progression. This past April, 60+ individuals, which included teachers, students, and art supporters, visited the Springfield Capitol in order to grow support for fine arts education. There have been many successes, which I will outline below, but we still have much work to do, and is why we need you now. On April 12th, 2016, the IAEA in partnership with the Arts Alliance, Ingenuity, and the Illinois Music Education Association, will again visit the capitol. My goal is to have representation of over 100 individuals for this visit. We only need you to sign up now. We will provide the busses, and the education. We need your voice, and your representation. Please go to the IAEA website, and click on Advocacy for more information on how to get involved.

One of last April’s big success stories was the adoption of House Resolution 271. We were there to witness the adoption of this resolution, sponsored by Rep. Camille Lilly, which calls upon elected officials and schools throughout the State of Illinois to maintain art programs. The work here is not finished however, as we still need to add pressure so that it can pass the Senate.

Another success story of that April visit was the 20+ signatures received by Senators and Representatives pledging their support for fine arts education. A key component of this success was student voice. If you are able to join us this coming April 12th, I encourage you to identify 2 or 3 students to bring along. I will be happy to work with you on this endeavor, providing the needed paperwork and logistical advice to make it work. Elected officials love seeing and listening to student’s voices.

All told, about 70-75 contacts were made, either by meeting the representative or senator personally, or by dropping off packets and information with the representative’s or senator’s staff members/secretaries. Several legislators were quoted as wanting to work to keep arts in all schools. There was even an art show, as 8 local students from Senator McConnaughay’s district had their artwork on display in the capitol building. We must build on these successes.

So what exactly are the specific goals of this work? I encourage you to take a look at our legislative document also found at the IAEA webpage, but I will briefly outline it here. Written and edited by a number of IAEA members, including myself, and past Advocacy Chair: Chris Grodoski, the document has 4 major asks.

  1. Visual Arts High School Graduation Requirement of 1 year & Dedicated minimum instruction time for pre-K through Middle School.
  2. Quality through mandatory licensed visual arts educators.
  3. Accountability, Assessment and Evaluation.
  4. Adoption of Illinois core art and media standards.

We have passed a major milestone in the Illinois Arts Learning Standards Initiative: On November 10th, behind the hard work of the Arts Alliance, a final draft of our recommended arts learning standards was submitted to the ISBE staff. These are high quality, thoughtful standards that reflect the insights of teachers throughout the state.

Looking beyond just our own state level success, one should find hope in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act & Every Child Achieves Act. This legislation was approved to replace the No Child Left Behind Act, and a congressional committee is currently working to reconcile both acts into a final piece of legislation for the president to sign. Combined, the 2 bills contain 13 arts-friendly provisions, including the arts as a core subject with expanded learning time, the offering of a well-rounded education, the arts increase achievement and graduation rates, and increased professional development time to name a few.

By building on the above success stories, both locally, and federally, my hope is to facilitate a clear and tangible path towards accomplishment of the 4 goals mentioned from the IAEA Legislative Document. We need political support to achieve these goals. In order to receive that support, we must establish a strong, and continued positive dialogue with state policy leaders and elected officials. Please join me and the other art education supporters in our April 12th visit to Springfield to do just that.

Thank you for your time. Please email me with any questions or reflections you might have.

Christopher Sykora
IAEA Advocacy Task Force Chair
advocacy@ILAEA.org