Eric A. Johnson, Published February 06 2014
Letter: Proposed cuts in NEA would hurt rural statesThe U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that would cut the National Endowment for the Arts by 49 percent. This is a terrible idea, and I call on our congressional delegation to reject this cut.
According to Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts industry (museums, theater and dance companies, performing arts centers, orchestras, arts councils and others) generates $22.3 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues annually – a yield well beyond their collective $4 billion in arts allocations.
Because the National Endowment for the Arts supports artistic excellence and improves access to the arts by granting funds to nonprofit arts organizations, I call on our federal officials to support an increase in funding for the NEA beyond its 1993 funding level of $174 million. That funding figure equals $277 million in today’s dollars.
Our schools need more arts education. Despite including the arts as being one of the 10 core academic subjects, the No Child Left Behind law has pushed arts classes to the side. Schools, especially those struggling, can retain their best teachers by becoming incubators for creativity and innovation – places where students want to learn and teachers want to teach. Students with an education rich in the arts have better grade-point averages, score better on standardized tests in reading and math, and have lower dropout rates – findings that cut across all socio-economic categories.
Congress should support an expansion of the federal arts education program to provide the best models for schools to include the arts in their curriculum.
Our rural communities contain some of the greatest cultural assets of our country. Rural economic development should be strengthened to help these communities promote the richness of their heritage and assist local artists with their entrepreneurship.
Across the country, the role of the arts as an economic engine is growing in acceptance and strength. I call on all lawmakers to support funding and policies at the federal level that would recognize the growth potential and direct benefits of encouraging cities and states to strategically invest in the arts in order to drive economic development.
Johnson, MFA, lives in Hillsboro, N.D.