March 23, 2017

How killing NEA would affect Alabama

AL.Com - The NEA's $148 million budget is 0.004 percent of the federal budget, less than half of one hundredth of one percent. The argument then is more one of philosophy, politics and the role of the federal government. In this arena there are very different points of view that are surfacing from people with contrasting opinions about how government should address quality of life issues for a broad diverse population.

....In Alabama the State Council on the Arts receives $4.7 million from a state appropriation and $775 thousand from the NEA. The match of these funds is at a level of seven to one. It is a fact that government dollars are a stimulant for matching funds from businesses, foundations and private giving. The private sector contributions amount to billions of dollars. You might counter by saying that the private sector can fund the arts and the loss of government dollars would not be missed. Testimony and experience from the private sector indicates this would not be the case. Government funding puts a "good housekeeping seal of approval" on projects and organizations that go through a rigorous review process that focuses on quality, impact and outreach, educational value and diverse audiences served.

Another fact is that the US system of funding the arts is a huge success because multiple partners have a distinct role to play and depend on one another to do their part in sharing responsibility in a well-crafted funding chain. The result is the existence of the most vibrant and diverse cultural environment in the world that impacts the economy by $704 billion and produces a trade surplus of $22.3 billion. All of that would seem to be a pretty good investment of a modest federal appropriation of $148 million.

There is data and evidence that the arts contribute significantly to education and the learning process. The arts are an important component in a student's problem solving skills. Statistics indicate the arts enhance learning in other subjects including technology based math and science. It has been proven and documented that different students learn differently and often the arts provide avenues to success in learning that otherwise would not take place. Drop-out rates are reduced where the arts are part of school offerings, providing alternatives to athletics and other electives. Federal funding through NEA and state grants make arts education available in schools that otherwise would have very little or no exposure to the arts.

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