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Alexander Plans 'Partnership' To Strengthen Arts Education

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WASHINGTON--Amid continuing criticism that music and the arts have been left out of national education-reform efforts, Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander earlier this month disclosed his intention to form a national "partnership'' to strengthen schooling in those subjects. But Education Department officials last week could offer few details on the idea.

Mr. Alexander's plan for a "national music and arts partnership'' came to light on March 6 in a copyrighted article in The Tennessean, a daily newspaper in the Secretary's home state. He told the newspaper he envisioned the partnership would work together, on a local level, with the 1,000 communities participating in President Bush's America 2000 education-reform plan. He said no members had formally been named to the group.

Mr. Alexander made his remarks in response to a protest in his hometown of Maryville over the lack of national attention to arts education. During a high-school choral concert there, the curtains opened to reveal an empty stage--a gesture intended to illustrate the future of music education in the community if the arts are not included in America 2000.

Etta Fielek, a spokesman for Mr. Alexander, confirmed last week that plans for the partnership have been in the works for months but are still incomplete. She said the Secretary has broached the idea so far with James C. Wolfensohn, the director of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts here, and a group of people in California interested in arts education, including representatives from the Getty Center for Education in the Arts.

"He has often said if it was his high school in his community there was no question it would be an important part of the curriculum,'' Ms. Fielek said of Mr. Alexander.

She said the Education Department planned to give full details on the plan within weeks.

Nationwide, arts and music educators have been protesting the lack of attention to their subjects for nearly two years. The effort gained renewed attention last month, however, after America 2000 was criticized during an internationally televised broadcast of the Grammy music-awards show.

"We are pleased that our ... efforts for music in every child's education are finally achieving some results,'' said John J. Mahlmann, executive director of the Music Educators National Conference, which has been active in that campaign. "Now we'll see if this new America 2000 partnership is rhetoric or substance.''--D.V.

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