Advocacy Alert: Jan. 28, 2010

MEMO TO ADVOCATES: 2010 Museum Advocacy Priorities

State of the Union Focuses on Economy, Jobs, Healthcare and Education

Last night President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress in his first State of the Union speech. Though the mood of the session was quite collegial, the President’s tone was serious as he addressed issues ranging from continued unemployment and bank bailouts, to jobs and healthcare legislation awaiting Senate action. As expected, the President also announced a proposed three year freeze on discretionary spending beginning with the FY2011 budget (spending on national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected). So far this proposal has met with cool response across Capitol Hill. The President’s budget proposal (to be released Monday, Feb. 1) serves as the starting point of the annual budget and appropriations process. President Obama also presented education reform as part of the solution for improving the economy and Americans’ quality of life, stating that, “In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education.” As museum advocates we know that an essential part of museums’ mission is educating and inspiring students and the public. Now, as Congress and the President prepare their agenda for the year, the museum community must also prepare to make our case for museums and the programs that support them.

Here is a snapshot of key issues for 2010, and how you can get involved:

Funding for Museums
The President’s FY2011 budget proposal is on schedule to be released on Monday, Feb. 1—including the funding freeze on most domestic discretionary spending.

AAM Action: As AAM works with the field to prepare a legislative agenda for 2010, maintaining and increasing funding for programs that support museums remains a top priority, with a focus on funding for the Office of Museum Services at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the National Science Foundation’s education programs, Arts in Education programs at the Department of Education and historic preservation funds at the National Park Service among other programs.

What you can do: Let your members of Congress know you support increased funding for OMS, and how your museum uses or has used IMLS funding.

IMLS Reauthorization
The current authorization for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) expired on Sept. 30, 2009. While the agency remains fully operational, reauthorization is an important opportunity for the field to share its priorities and needs with Congress and the agency—and for Congress to show its continued support for the work of IMLS.

AAM Action: Over the last several years and months AAM and other national, regional, and state museum associations have worked closely together to articulate a reauthorization proposal that reflects the needs of all parts of the museum field.

What you can do: Let members of Congress know that Comprehensive Reauthorization of IMLS is a priority for museums.

Museums and Education Policy
Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—commonly known as No Child Left Behind—is slated for 2010. This legislation stands to garner a great deal of attention in Congress, and has had and will continue to have a huge impact on museums and their work educating students in every community.

AAM Action: AAM has already joined the dialogue being led by the Department of Education, filing comments with the agency on Dec. 30, 2009 highlighting the dynamic educational services museums provide and urging express inclusion of museums as educational partners in additional ESEA programs, such as Title I programs, where appropriate.

What you can do: Let your members of Congress know that museums are critical partners in education in your community.

The Value of Museums and Nonprofits
Sustaining the nonprofit status of museums, supporting tax policy that encourages donations to museums and educating members of Congress about the critical value of museums and other nonprofits in every community remains an important piece of AAM’s advocacy for museums. Currently in the 111th session of Congress both an extension of the IRA Rollover provision that expired on Dec. 31, 2009 and the Artist-Museum Partnership Act of 2009 are under consideration.

AAM Action: AAM continues to work in coalition with the larger non-profit community, including Independent Sector and the American Society for Association Executives, to make the case for the value of nonprofits in our communities and our economy. This work also includes ongoing efforts to ensure that tax credits for small business provided in some versions of healthcare reform are also extended to small nonprofits, including museums.

What you can do: Use our template letters to let your members of Congress know how these issues impact your museum, and how your museum impacts your local economy.