by John Eger, Huffington Post

It’s really time to stop tiptoeing around the vital role of the arts in education.

Maybe it’s also time for the Congress to put the A into STEM.

Major provisions of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010–also known as the STEM act–are set to expire this year. At this time, according to the Congressional Research Service in a report issued last month, “the 113th Congress will have the opportunity to reconsider this act and its policy contributions. Those contributions include, among other things, funding authorizations for certain federal physical sciences and engineering research programs, as well as selected STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education programs.”

President George W. Bush, you may remember, signed the America COMPETES Act in 2008 which authorized $151 million to help students earn a bachelor’s degree, math and science teachers to get teaching credentials, and provide additional money to help align kindergarten through grade 12 math and science curricula to better prepare students for college.

This is the time for another reauthorization and for STEAM to replace STEM as the message Washington needs to communicate.

It isn’t clear if anything is happening in the house or senate although, according to the Americans for the Arts, a bipartisan team headed by Representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Aaron Schock, was formed “to increase awareness of the importance of STEAM education and explore new strategies to advocate for STEAM programs.” Further they hoped, that:

“Introduction of the STEAM Caucus will cast a larger net of awareness for improving arts education. The Congressional Arts Caucus as well as the STEAM Caucus will simultaneously serve the arts community by illustrating that art can be a part of their policy solutions.”

The caucus itself marks an auspicious beginning for STEAM in the Congress. So too, was the 2010 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to the Art of Science Learning to produce three conferences–in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Illinois and San Diego, California–to look at what business, education, and communities across the United States were doing to merge the “two cultures” of art and science.

In the process, Harvey Seifter, head of the project and founder of the Art of Science Learning firm, explored a framework for sparking creativity and innovation in our schools, our workplaces and in our nation; and proposals that the NSF might find attractive to underwrite.

It has happened…so too, a lot more.