Keynote at Illinois Music Educators All-State parallels State of the Union

PEORIA, Ill. (Jan. 28, 2010) — The Illinois Music Educators Association has brought hundreds of Illinois’s best high school musicians to the Peoria Civic Center for rehearsals with conductors who number among the nation’s best. Students will remember their performances Saturday at the annual All-State music festival for the rest of their lives.

The conference keynote, delivered by Barbara L. Geer, president of MENC: The National Assocation for Music Education, is entitled “Music: A Sound Investment.” She is expected to describe ongoing efforts, at the national and local levels, in school reform, as the U.S. Education Department considers changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

From the text of President Obama’s State of the Union Address last night:

Talk to the single teacher raising two kids who was told by her principal in the last week of school that because of the Recovery Act, she wouldn’t be laid off after all. … There are stories like this all across America. And after two years of recession, the economy is growing again. Retirement funds have started to gain back some of their value. Businesses are beginning to invest again, and slowly some are starting to hire again.

But he was guarded, recognizing that many Americans still didn’t know where their next paycheck would come from. For example, we reported that several teachers in Maine Township District 207 in Park Ridge were told they would lose their jobs at the end of this school year.

Recovery can’t come fast enough for many in this generation, and training for the next generation can’t be expanded too much, the text of the State of the Union hinted. Leading up to what he called “the best anti-poverty program around,” the president noted that even a high school diploma won’t guarantee a job in this economy:

Now, this year, we’ve broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. And the idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform — reform that raises student achievement; inspires students to excel in math and science; and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city. In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That’s why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.

In his speech, the president also asked for a $10,000 tax credit to families for four years of college and for an increase in Pell Grants.

Several 21st-century skills, namely those promoted by music education, are also expected to be a focus of Ms. Geer’s keynote speech here. Throughout the conference, we’ll be reporting on this aspect of education reform, both at the national and local levels.

Our ongoing coverage of the IMEA All-State Conference is online, here.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.