On June 28, 2012, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2013 interior appropriations bill, with $132 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a cut of $14.3 million from the current allocation of $146.3 million. In its budget proposal to Congress earlier this year, the Obama administration proposed an increase in arts spending of almost $8 million over FY2012. The president's budget requested $154.255 million for the NEA, with 40% of program grant funds allocated to state arts agencies as mandated by Congress.
The Obama budget would provide continued support for the National Heritage Fellowships and the American Jazz Masters Fellowships. Both were proposed for elimination in the administration's 2012 budget. Funding for the Our Town initiative would also continue in 2013.
In each of the first two years of his administration, the president had proposed funding for the NEA at $161.315 million. For 2012, the administration's proposal would have cut the NEA funds back to $146 million, the level eventually set by Congress for the current year.
The arts funding bill could go at any time before the full House, where amendments making further cuts in funding for the arts are possible. Though no timetable has been set for consideration by the full House, NASAA will continue to report on the bill's progress.
Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations
Before adjourning at the end of 2011, the House and Senate passed omnibus spending legislation to carry fiscal year 2012 appropriations through September 2012, including funds for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and for the National Endowment for the Humanities set at $146.255 million each. This is the same level requested by the Obama administration.
Earlier in the year, the House had approved funding at $135 million, while the Senate Appropriations Committee had set the NEA's budget at $155 million—the same as the 2011 spending level. The bill signed into law by the president on December 23, 2011, applied an across-the-board cut to all agencies, leaving the NEA with a total of $145.979 million for the year.
The House-Senate conference report embodying the funding agreement provides details and policy directives beyond the bill's language, including a restatement of the congressional mandate to allot 40% of grant funds to the states in the budget for the NEA. Addressing the administration's budget proposal to exempt funds for the Our Town initiative from the calculation of state funding, the report says: "The conferees disagree with the proposal . . . and direct that funds be distributed based on the longstanding agreement that States receive 40 percent of all appropriated grant funds."
Other directives in the appropriations conference report urge that funds for the Shakespeare in American Communities and The Big Read initiatives be maintained "at an appropriate funding level to allow a vibrant, competitive program to be maintained."
Arts in Education Funding
Congress's 2012 omnibus spending bill provided funding for the U.S. Department of Education's arts education model development program grants at $24.593 million, down slightly from $25.5 million in 2011. The Obama administration had proposed including the arts education funding in a larger block of grants for program innovations, combining a number of education programs with discretionary funding. Congress rejected that proposal in the fiscal 2012 appropriations legislation.
In the fiscal year 2013 budget, again the Obama administration has proposed consolidating the Arts in Education program into a broad funding pool entitled Effective Teaching & Learning for a Well-Rounded Education. The consolidation would merge funding for a wide range of subjects with a total funding pool of $90 million available for all subjects, including arts education. NASAA and our advocacy colleagues are working to urge Congress to maintain the distinct Arts in Education program and appropriate $30 million for FY2013.
Arts in Education/ESEA Reauthorization
While reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is not likely to see its way to final action this year, the House and Senate education committees have been considering legislative proposals that will guide the debate once deliberations pick up after the November elections.
In October 2011, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee moved ahead with the long-delayed reauthorization of ESEA in approving a bill cosponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the committee, and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), the committee's ranking minority member.
Of relevance to arts education, the legislation would:
retain arts education in the definition of a "core academic subject," ensuring eligibility for the use of federal funds locally on arts education objectives and activities;
expand the meaning of "core academic subject" by incorporating the concept into—and thereby making the arts central to—additional federal education policies and programs within ESEA;
create a new program called Extended Learning to provide competitive grants to school districts to extend their school day, specifying the arts and music as among the reasons for extending the time for learning;
establish a competitive grant program with support for a broad range of subjects—arts, civics and government, economics, environmental education, financial literacy, foreign languages, geography, health education, history, physical education and social studies—with an authorized funding level of $500 million (the consolidated grant program was proposed by Sen. Bob Casey [D-PA] and tracks a similar proposal in the Obama administration's 2012 and 2013 budgets);
identify 10 programs of "National Significance," with a directive to the Department of Education to support "projects that encourage the involvement of persons with disabilities in the arts."
In February 2012, the House Education and Workforce Committee passed a comprehensive package of education reforms with voting along party lines. Legislation passed by the committee last year, also along party lines, would eliminate the Department of Education's arts education program entirely.
During the committee debate this year, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), ranking Democrat on the committee, proposed a substitute for the Republican bill with alternatives to education reform. Among other provisions, the Miller package would create a "well-rounded" fund to support arts education, representing a hybrid between the administration's consolidation proposal and the Casey proposal in the Senate bill. Significantly, the Miller proposal would allocate funds by percentage for subject areas. Protection of dedicated funds has been a consistent request from the arts and other disciplines proposed for consolidation, and neither the Obama budget proposal nor the Senate proposal includes protection of dedicated funding for the arts.
Institute of Museum and Library Services Reauthorized
On December 22, 2010, President Obama signed S. 3984, the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010, to reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for the next five years.
S. 3984, the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), with the cosponsorship of Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Jon Tester (D-MT), Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Susan Collins (R-ME), contains a new provision designed to support "efforts at the state level to leverage museum resources, including statewide assessments of museum services and needs and development of state plans to improve and maximize museum services throughout the state." This new grants activity would become available only when IMLS appropriations increased by more than $10 million. At that time, not less than 30% but not more than 50% of that increase would be used for the grants to statewide museum assessments and planning. New funds would be disbursed on a competitive, discretionary basis by IMLS.
Health Care Reform: Opportunities for Artists and Arts Organizations
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, includes provisions that can improve the opportunities for health care coverage for artists:
Requires health plans to allow young people up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents' insurance policy, at the parents' choice, effective six months from enactment.
Establishes health insurance exchanges in each state to individual and small employers to enable people to comparison shop for standardized health packages. It also provides for tax credits—based on income—to enable individuals at the lower end of the economic scale to obtain affordable coverage. The exchanges become effective in 2014.
Provides immediate access to insurance for individuals who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool, effective 90 days from enactment until the exchanges are up and running in 2014. In 2014, high-risk pools would phase out as all health plans would be prohibited from discriminating against any individual with a pre-existing condition.
Provides a tax credit beginning in 2010 through 2013 for businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 25 employees and average wages below $50,000. During those three years, the bill permits a credit for small employers that provide insurance for their employees, and beginning in 2014, credits are available to employers purchasing employee coverage through health insurance exchanges.