In May 2018, I had the privilege of attending the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Music Education Advocacy Fly-in in Washington, D.C. The goal of this program is to train NAMM members about the policies and priorities of the current administration so when they meet with members of Congress, they can better advocate for the importance of music education.
I learned so much in a few short days at the fly-in. But one of the most helpful and talked-about topics was how to access Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) funds, and this is what I want to pass along to music educators who do so much with so little.
When ESSA passed in December 2015 with bipartisan support, music educators around the country stood and applauded. The act not only called out the arts in its definition of a "well-rounded education," but it also allocated resources to provide that well-rounded education.
Under ESSA, the highest poverty schools benefit the most from Title I funds. The act also ensures that federal funding must supplement, not replace, state and local funding.
For 2018, $1.1 billion was made available through ESSA's Title IVA flexible block grant program known as Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG). That's a lot of money, but accessing it is not easy or simple.
Start by asking your principal, arts administrator or Title I specialist if they have submitted grant applications to your state to receive ESSA funds.
If they have applied for grant money, ask how to leverage these funds to meet the needs of your program so that it may be expanded to provide equal access to all students—another ESSA tenet.
Next, perform a needs assessment. If you're not sure where to start, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) can help.Its Opportunity to Learn Standards (OTLs) document specifies the resources your school should provide to give students a "meaningful chance to achieve at the levels spelled out in the Core Music Standards."
My home state of Nevada is already accepting RFAs (Request for Applications) for the second year of Title IVA grant funding. And the good news is that music programs are benefitting.
If your administration is not aware of ESSA's Title IVA funding, research which office in your state's Department of Education is responsible for the appropriation of these funds. The easiest way to do this is to search "ESSA Title IVA (insert your state)."
For Nevada, the first thing that popped up was the actual RFA. Right on the cover page was the name and contact information of the person in charge of the grant funds.
I emailed that person and received all the information I needed, including the names of all of the grant recipients from the first year of ESSA.
You may end up being the hero of your school by making your administration aware of resources that will bring added support to your school. More importantly, you will bring the joy of music-making to more students.
Those of us who continue to attend the NAMM fly-in do so because we know how music changes the lives of students. So let's find a way to serve even more students! Title IVA provides that opportunity. Music educations just need to take that first step.