|Sen. Mike Enzi, co-sponsor of arts education bill in U.S. Senate|
Three appropriations bills, combined into a single spending package, have passed Congress, along with a second continuing resolution carrying fiscal 2012 spending at 2011 levels until December 16. The funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has been passed on the House floor at $135 million, and the Senate appropriators have okayed a companion bill maintaining the NEA money at the 2011 level of $155 million. Work isn't done on the final spending measure requiring agreement between the two chambers, but at least the parameters have been set for reaching an agreement. What's more, House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee chair Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) succeeded in shepherding a bill through the House that preserves the congressional mandate allocating 40% of NEA program funds to the states, and directing the NEA to consult with the states on important matters such as defining the requirements for state matching funds and the conditions for waiver of the match.
Some good news comes out of the Senate, too. The Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved with bipartisan support a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, languishing on the congressional to-do list for the past four or five years. The measure, sponsored by the committee's chair, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), and its ranking Republican, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), supports arts education by maintaining the arts as a core academic subject and broadening the opportunities in the statute for funding support of activities addressing the core subjects.