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CU student advocates for music education on Capitol Hill

New bill includes music education

2/17/2016
Tennessee Delegates on Capitol Hill

From left to right:
Front row: Johnathan Vest, Lauren Gregory
Row 2: Justin Lee, Dian Eddleman, Davey Edmaston
Row 3: Ron Meers, Jeffrey Phillips, Della Coleman
Photograph taken by Michael Chester.

Lauren Gregory, a junior CU music education major, played an important role in the recent passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), in Washington, D.C. She was one of four college students from Tennessee to spend three days there advocating for music education as part of the bill.

Gregory and 200 fellow advocates from across the country gathered on Capitol Hill in June, 2015, to bring awareness to the importance of music education in schools, which has consistently been losing funding over the last few decades. She and the other three collegiate delegates met with Tennessee senators and representatives to discuss the Early Secondary Education Act (ESEA). President Lyndon B. Johnson first initiated the bill in 1965 and it wasn’t until President George W. Bush came into office that the bill was reauthorized under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Experts say that establishing the importance of music in early secondary education is an ongoing struggle, and this is primarily because music education is not considered as crucial to the students’ academic growth as math, science, literature, or the other core subjects taught in schools nationwide.

Gregory found out about “Hill Day” while at the 2015 All-State Band and Choir Convention in Memphis, Tenn. She took the initiative to contact Ron Meers, Tennessee’s state National Association for Music Education (NAfME) president, to see what she could do to be considered for a delegate position.

“Awareness for music education is a battle many educators spend their careers fighting, and yet their voices often go unheard. It is for this sole reason that organizations such as NAfME exist,” Gregory said.

At the time of their meetings on Capitol Hill, the House and Senate had yet to reach a by-partisanship on the subject, and the bill was again up for reauthorization. This provided advocates such as Gregory the chance to express the importance of music education while requesting congressional support for the ESEA.

Gregory, alongside her fellow advocates, did not leave Washington disappointed. On December 11, 2015, President Obama reauthorized the bill under its new title, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“I was so proud to say that when President Obama signed the ESSA bill into law that I did that. I played an active part in making that happen. I was excited to represent my home state of Tennessee, but also to represent Cumberland University,” said Gregory.