FEDERAL

The United States Senate is considering an update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind. The bill contains several pro-arts revisions, but as Narric Rome explains, political constraints probably mean an agreement is still far off. The Senate did, however, add the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act to the comprehensive immigration reform bill that was passed in June; it remains to be seen whether this legislation will get out of the House intact. You can read more about the ARTS Act here.

Oh, and did you know that U.S. arts “policy” includes something like $100,000 a year to commission official government portraits of federal agency directors and Cabinet secretaries? Representative Bill Cassidy (R-LA) is having none of it, though – he’s introduced a bill to eliminate this line item from the federal budget, called (of course) the EGO Act.

STATE/LOCAL

Last time we reported on an ambitious bid to raise the California Arts Council’s annual appropriation to $75 million a year, a paradigm-shifting increase. As so often happens with these things, though, the proposal is dead on arrival, and the Council’s budget will in fact decline by 7.6% under the budget passed for next year. Advocates hope to revive the proposal next year.

Oregon arts advocates have received lots of praise for the $35-per-person tax that has led to new funding for arts education and grantmaking in Portland this year. But things are hardly going off without a hitch, as several changes have been made to the tax since it was passed that all have the effect of reducing revenue and/or costing the city money. New blogosphere entrant Joanna Woronkowicz takes a dim view of the tax as a model for arts policy.

INTERNATIONAL

This continues to be an intense year for the arts in the UK. Arts Council England is looking at a further 5% cut after numerous sacrifices small and large the last few years. This amid rumors that the Department of Media, Culture and Sport, under which ACE is housed, might be closed. And after much back and forth, the city of Westminster is proceeding with eliminating its arts funding entirely, a loss of £350,000 (about $525,000). But on the other hand, the Office of National Statistics has elected to include arts participation as a measure of national well-being.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spain is considering reducing its 21% VAT (sales tax) rate on cultural goods and services, potentially to 13%. Arts organizations in Spain had been protesting the hike in taxes, which had previously been only 8%, with such measures as selling carrots to audiences instead of tickets. Finally, the French government appears to be softening its hardline stance on digital music piracy.