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Report on the Partnership for Music Education Policy Development’s Summit Meeting: June 14, 2014

Ryan Shaw

The Michigan Partnership for Music Education Policy Development (PMEPD) recently held a policy summit on June 14, 2014. The event occurred at Michigan State University and fea- tured Michigan lawmakers such as Senator Re- bekah Warren, Representative Adam Zemke, State Board of Education members John Austin and Eileen Weiser, and other educational stake- holders such as Royal Oak Public Schools Su- perintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin, Dan Quinn of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, and bassist from the Detroit Sym- phony Orchestra, Larry Hutchinson. In addition to these invited speakers, the event attracted over 40 music teachers from around the state to discuss music education policy.

The PMEPD formed in 2012 under the leader- ship of Chelsea band teacher Rick Catherman and has been putting together an agenda aimed at affecting policy since its’ founding. So far, the group has presented to the Michigan State Board of Education and the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness. The two central is- sues being addressed at the summit included an elementary music mandate and guidance on music teacher evaluation. In this article, I give a brief overview of what was discussed at the event.

An Opening Address by State Board President John Austin The opening speaker for the event was John Austin, President of the Michigan State Board of Education. He opened by acknowledging the important and unique contributions of the arts in students’ education. Austin suggested that the arts—and music in particular—enabled students to develop life skills such as determination and persistence that would benefit them no matter their life trajectory. Austin also noted that his own children considered music to be where they “found their voice.” He shared a story of his son Murphy, a student at Swarthmore College, who recently produced a musical video tribute for his mother’s 50th birthday. Austin also stressed


that music and the other arts provided students with a different way of thinking and expressing themselves. He noted the policy challenges go- ing forward that needed attention, including ef- fective teacher evaluation for music educators, and the funding structure for public education in the state. In stressing the many positive impacts of music education on students, President Aus- tin’s opening remarks set a tone for many of the other invited speakers’ comments.

Featured Remarks from Senator Rebekah Warren Senator Rebekah Warren spoke specifically about how the PMEPD and those in attendance at the summit could effect desired change. She mentioned that she is asked in her job to be a “jack of all trades.” In a single week, she will likely review legislation on water quality, taxa- tion, education, road repair, and health care. Because state lawmakers must deal with so many issues, she encouraged the music educa- tion community to simply schedule meetings with their representatives and senators. Warren suggested that unless the music education com- munity makes its priorities known, lawmakers would be blind to music specific issues. At the end of her remarks, she joked that when coming to such an event, she realizes that there are many in the room who know substantially more about the discussion topic than she. Because of this knowledge gap, she reiterated the importance of advocating face-to-face with lawmakers.

An Elementary Music Mandate Throughout the summit, three moderated panel discussions offered a chance for audience mem- bers to ask questions of the state politicians. The first panel addressed a possible elementary music mandate, the second discussed teacher evaluation policy, and the final panel was a sort of “catch-all” for debating emerging issues in education.

Michigan is one of only five states that do not have any official language mandating music

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