Celebrities and Students Deliver More than 120,000 Petition Signatures Supporting Music and Arts Education to Secretary of Education

June 18, 2009
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – More than 120,000 petition signatures were delivered to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today by celebrities and hundreds of students from all over the United States at a rally in support of music and arts education. The petitions urge the administration to recognize music and arts as mandatory subjects. While recognized as core subjects under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA - formerly known as “No Child Left Behind”), which is currently up for reauthorization, music programs are being cut nationwide to due to shrinking education budgets.

Music educators represented by MENC: The National Association of Music Education were joined by celebrities, students and elected officials in an effort to change this trend, encouraging the Administration and Congress to revise ESEA to ensure music and the arts are mandatory core subjects for all students so these programs will continue to receive financial support in light of budget reductions. 

MENC Executive Director Dr. John Mahlmann stated “Research shows that music education at an early age is strongly associated with the likelihood that a child will graduate from high school, seek higher education and ultimately earn a higher salary. In this economy, we need to give our children every tool we can in order to lay the foundation for success.  Music education is not just a ‘feel good’ subject.  It helps to sharpen academic skills in math and other subjects and provides important socialization skills such as team work.”

MENC members all over the country have reported a reduction in budgets. One teacher has gone from serving one elementary school to dividing her time among three each week. “This is a prime example of how budget cuts are impacting access to music education,” stated Barbara Geer, MENC President.

A 2007 Harris Interactive Poll report found that 83 percent of people whose income is higher than $150,000 participated in music education. Another Harris study (2006) found schools with music programs have a significantly higher graduation and attendance rate (90.2 percent compared to 72.9 percent and 93.3 percent compared to 84.9 percent, respectively). Additionally, The College Board (2006) reports that SAT takers with coursework in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion and 43 points higher on the math portion.

“We are here today to make a joyful noise in support of music education.  We hope that the presence of hundreds of students today, some from as far away as Alaska conveys to Secretary Duncan and Congress how important music is in the development of students who will become our future leaders.  Keeping music in schools is crucial,” actress and music education advocate Florence Henderson added.

Other notable rally attendees included former National Basketball Association star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, nationally syndicated “Funky Winkerbean” cartoonist Tom Batiuk, and Mrs. America 2009 Maureen McDonald.

“Without music, I would not be where I am today,” said Congressman Joe Crowley, D-New York, 7th District. New York’s P.S. 83 elementary school rock band the “Rockin’ Bulldogs,” from Crowley’s district, performed at the rally. The school’s music program was restored by the VH1 Save the Music Foundation and, as a result, its music students were able to travel to Washington, D.C. to show their support for the mandate.  “Music was part of what excited me about going to school every day, and my love for it has stayed with me throughout my life.  It has enhanced all aspects of my life, and it is my hope that we can work together to ensure all children have the same opportunity.”

The rally is part of the first annual Music Education Week in Washington, which features professional development seminars for music educators, Capitol Hill visits, and student performances at the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial and the Kennedy Center.  To learn more, please visit www.menc.org