Call to Action – HS Fine Arts Credit in Jeopardy

Two new bills introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives, HB 4269 and 4270, may have problematic impacts on music programs in the state of Michigan. Here’s a brief primer on the bills:
 
1) Currently, Michigan high school students must complete credits across different areas as part of the Michigan Merit Curriculum (for example, 4 credits in English language arts, 3 credits in science). Since 2006, all Michigan students are required to take 1 credit in the visual, performing, or applied arts. Additionally, students (beginning with the class of 2016) must complete 2 credits of a foreign language. Note: individual districts may require additional credits, but the Michigan Merit Curriculum provides minimum numbers.
 
2) The new house bills would eliminate the arts and foreign language requirements, replacing them with a three-credit requirement from courses focused on “21st Century Skills.” The proposed bills would add computer science and computer coding courses, or a combination of the two, and an MDE-approved formal career and technical education (CTE) program (e.g., construction trades, automobile tech) as available options for students to meet the “21st Century Skills”  three-credit requirement.
 
3) The proposed bills are problematic for MMEA members and Michigan students, as they would diminish or potentially eliminate arts opportunities. Currently, there is only a 1-credit graduation requirement for the arts. By the way, 44 states and the district of Columbia require arts in High School. Removing the art credit requirement would negatively impact arts opportunities for all Michigan high school students. We believe a Career and Technical Education platform can be part of a well-rounded education, but to do so at the expense of arts experiences is counterintuitive. 
 
The goal of the legislation is clear–the bills aim to give flexibility to the requirements around the arts and foreign language, giving students the ability to take three credits of coding or CTE classes if they choose. MMEA believes the bills may lead to lowered music program enrollment and/or to high schools deciding not to offer arts courses at all. Therefore MMEA would encourage consideration of maintaining the 1-credit arts graduation requirement to ensure the opportunity to participate in the arts is maintained for Michigan students.  
 
MMEA asks you to please consider calling your state representative AND members of the House of Representatives Education Committee. Ask them to vote to maintain the 1-credit arts requirements for high school graduation to ensure Michigan students have the opportunity to participate in the arts, in alignment with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
 
Questions? Please email Ryan Shaw, MMEA’s Government Relations Coordinator, at rshaw@msu.edu