Getting Started

Getting Started

Arts Education Advocacy is complex because there are many layers of authority in our public school system. But one fact remains constant across North Carolina’s public schools: the first place to begin advocacy is with the school principal. If you are fortunate enough to have a supportive site administrator, then you have already taken one major leap toward your goal.

If the principal has not indicated that arts education should be a priority for that school, it is wise to begin by understanding what he or she values as essential in the education process. Next, make efforts to communicate the way those values align with skills and concepts that are often fundamental to an arts education. Winning acceptance for arts education by school administrators is rarely a process of comparable aesthetic appreciation or an authentic personal understanding of the arts. Traditional preparation for their role as a school leader often does not encompass working outside of the parameters of a “teach-and-test” paradigm. Yet these leaders want ways to engage their more reticent students and they seek reliable methods to close the achievement gaps that haunt our public schools in North Carolina.

Developing a positive rapport with the principal involves respecting the difficulty of their job and joining forces to build new action steps. Always be mindful that the principal’s support should be paired with an improved understanding of other key stakeholders such as the School Improvement Team members, lead teachers or department heads, parents of students taking arts classes, the school PTSA, and community members with strong ties to the school.

Depending on your issue, progress in arts education policy and support could be implemented at many different levels. To follow is an organizational chart of entities involved in education and a broad description of their authority. This document is intended as a starting point for arts education advocacy with the qualification that every local education authority and community power structure should be considered as a part of advocacy strategy.

Note: Local Control refers to control for decision-making at the local school level. This is implemented in various ways in North Carolina to include local school systems as well as individual school level authority.


Who Does What?

School Improvement Team or School Leadership Team
Works with school administration to govern decision-making at the individual school level.
District Arts Education Coordinator
Within the LEA, there may be an Arts Education Coordinator, a designated person who is responsible for the implementation or guidance for arts education programs within the school system. This position may also include other responsibilities and may report to other curricular leadership.
School Administrators
Responsible for the day to day operations of the individual school within the guidance of the LEA and Local Board of Education. Has power to make decisions in hiring faculty.
Hired by the County School Board (LEA), the Superintendent is responsible for providing programmatic and funding recommendations that adhere to local, state, and federal policy.
Local Education Agency – (LEA) – County School Board
Create local policy to implement state and federal policies and lawas as well as set additional policies that govern operations at the local level beyond what is specified in state and federal law. Examples include decisions about which programs to fund, numbers of teachers, teaching loads, additional graduation requirements, and student fees.
County Commissioners
Set budget at local level for the local school system; provides any funding for teachers not covered in state funding formula.
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
Serves and leads 115 school districts, 2452 public and charter schools, approximately 95,000 teachers and more than 1.4 million students, providing assistance with implementation of school policies and laws, as directed by the State Board of Education. NCDPI does not have legislative power, but rather works to fulfill the legislative requirements of the North Carolina General Assembly and policy requirements of the State Board of Education.
North Carolina State Board of Education
Creates state level policies for implementation of state and federal law.
North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction
Elected position – heads the NC Department of Public Instruction, serves as Secretary and reports to the State Board of Education, and coordinates implementation of NCDPI work.
Appoints North Carolina State Board of Education; can support specific initiatives in North Carolina General Assembly.
North Carolina General Assembly
Sets state law.
Federal Laws and Policies
Impacts state and local policies and funding – i.e. No Child Left Behind.

The Arts Education section of the Basic Education Plan – Provides a foundation for excellence in Arts Education.

Arts Education Advocacy – Success lies in the ability of the advocate to connect the message of the arts education goal with the needs and priorities of the community.


What Is Needed?

  • Coalitions of parents, teachers, students, administrators, artists, arts organizations, business leaders, policy makers, and elected officials. The power of organized communication between constituents and elected officials or education leadership is indisputable. Issues which demonstrate grassroots support are given priority.
  • An advocacy plan that identifies the specific advocacy purpose, direct and indirect decision makers and those who influence decision makers, simple and straight forward arts education value statements that clearly connect to community priorities, data and personal testimony that support the core statements, and a specific plan of action.
  • A unified will to take action and a consensus on the specific goals, timelines, and expected outcomes of the advocacy.

Arts Education Advocacy is a continuum of site-specific issues and comprehensive policy movements at the state level, but the basics apply to any purpose or setting:

  • Work in a group. Create listserv and Facebook pages. Get Connected to Arts North Carolina.
  • Define your goals.
  • Analyze the environment, including opposition and supporters.
  • Identify decision makers and those who influence decision makers. Arts education advocacy is complex because identifying the right target can be elusive. You must determine who is making those decisions that affect your issue. The list can include school faculty (lead teachers), principals, central office administration, superintendent, school board, county commissioners, state Senators or Representatives, State School Board, and federal policy makers.
  • Build or grow relationships through communication and persistence.
  • Make a plan with action steps, assigned roles, and a specified timeline.
  • Identify core messages.
  • Support core messages with data and personal testimony.
  • Develop a communication plan that includes multiple delivery systems (e-mail, phone, hard copy, personal visits) from a diverse group of stakeholders. Consider the father of a music student who plays or played an instrument himself or the mother or aunt who works in advertising as a graphic designer. Look for people who are authentically connected to the work or enjoyment of the arts and can speak from experience.
Advocacy Tip: Engage individuals to deliver the messages who are “unexpected” and who represent the economic power structure of the community.