What a week! We spent Tuesday and Wednesday on the Hill with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who came to town to receive the US Capitol Historical Society’s Freedom Award and stayed to advocate for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Check out our Storify of all the events, meetings, tweets, and videos!
Tuesday evening started off with the US Capitol Historical Society’s award ceremony, which featured Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Representative John Lewis, and Donald Carlson, Chair of the USCHS Board of Trustees, recognizing Lin-Manuel for his tremendous work creating Hamilton: An American Musical and the Hamilton Education Program, which integrates Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Era into high school studies.
In his acceptance speech, Lin-Manuel noted “without humanities and arts programs, I wouldn’t be standing here today” and underscored the importance of ensuring that all youth, rural and urban, have similar access. “The fact is,” he noted, “that in places like Appalachia and California’s Central Valley and Native American reservations and the Mississippi Delta and vast swaths of the Great Plains, the private resources simply do not exist to provide kids with the kinds of programs that I was just lucky enough to grow up with. This is why the [NEH] and the [NEA] are so vital to our democracy. Without these resources, we are essentially telling these kids without access to the arts, ‘Your world is small. Don’t dream too big.’”
We then moved on to the “Congress and the Humanities Showcase,” which the National Humanities Alliance produced in conjunction with the USCHS. The Humanities Showcase recognized Congress for its ongoing support for the NEH and honored the creative and innovative work the NEH supports in serving K-12 students, veterans, tribal nations, and rural communities. A bi-partisan group of Congress members introduced projects from around the country and underscored the importance of the NEH. See more here.
Finally, Lin-Manuel dedicated the next day to traveling around the Capitol with us (while singing and snapping selfies) to make the case for the importance of broad access to the arts and humanities. He joined a bi-partisan group from the New York delegation and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which funds the NEH and NEA. He also thanked the chairs of the Senate Cultural Caucus, Congressional Humanities Caucus, and Congressional Arts Caucus. Check out pictures of these meetings, the one-on-ones, and hallway run-ins here.
We are extremely grateful to Lin-Manuel Miranda for joining us on the Hill, amplifying the messages our advocates have been sending for the past several months.
Last Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee considered the funding bill put forward by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H). As noted in a previous post, this bill provided level funding for both IMLS (at $231 million) and the Department of Education’s Title VI international education programs (at $65 million), but eliminated the Fulbright-Hays program entirely.
In the days leading up to the full committee's consideration of the bill, the humanities community voiced its support for Fulbright-Hays and Title VI, sending over 10,000 letters to Congress.
During last Wednesday’s full committee proceedings, Representative David Price (D-NC) offered an amendment to restore funding for Fulbright-Hays. Like all other amendments offered that day, this one was voted down. Nonetheless, we were pleased to see that Representative Cole (R-OK), chairman of the Labor-H subcommittee, took the opportunity to recognize the importance of Fulbright-Hays, noting that he was a Fulbright scholar. He also expressed his willingness to work with Representative Price to restore its funding as the budget process moves forward.
In the end, the full committee approved the bill—with level funding for IMLS and Title VI and zero funding for Fulbright-Hays—and voted to refer it out of committee. The next step for this bill will be the House floor, where we would hope to see an amendment restoring funding, though it remains unclear when it will reach the floor. We are still awaiting Senate numbers for Title VI and Fulbright-Hays, along with all of our other priorities. Given that we are still in the early stages of the appropriations process, your voice can still have an impact. Please take action to let your Members of Congress know that you support funding for both Title VI and Fulbright-Hays.
Late last night, the House Appropriations Committee endorsed the bill that the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies had approved on July 12. As we noted in an earlier post, this bill would provide $145 million each for the NEH and the NEA in FY 2018. While this is a $4.8 million reduction from the FY 2017 levels, we are pleased to see that the full Appropriations Committee followed the subcommittee’s lead in rejecting the president’s proposal to defund the Endowments.
The appropriations process is still in its early stages, and the NEH still faces hurdles in the House and the Senate. For more information on the bill and next steps in the appropriations process, see our post on the subcommittee’s draft. Visit our Take Action page to learn about the multiple ways you can support the NEH.
Late last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-H) passed a funding bill, sending it on to the full committee for consideration. The full committee is scheduled to take up the bill on Wednesday, July 19th at 10am.
As it stands now, the draft bill includes some very positive news for humanities funding: IMLS would receive the same amount of funding as in FY 2017 ($231 million) despite the Trump Administration’s efforts to defund the agency. In addition, the bill provides level funding ($65 million) for the Department of Education’s Title VI international education programs. This is a win for the humanities community, given that the Trump Administration also proposed the elimination of these programs.
Unfortunately, following the president’s request, the bill proposes the elimination of the Fulbright-Hays program.
Title VI and Fulbright-Hays are Department of Education programs that work in tandem to support foreign language learning and international education. Fulbright-Hays ensures that students and teachers can acquire language and area expertise with on-the-ground experience overseas through two programs: Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, which provides grants to colleges and universities to fund individual doctoral students to conduct research abroad, particularly in world regions not normally included in U.S. curricula; and Group Projects Abroad, which supports seminars, curriculum development, group research, and advanced intensive language programs for American teachers, students, and faculty abroad.
The House subcommittee’s failure to fund Fulbright-Hays is especially concerning because in recent years, we have counted on House support to offset the Senate’s efforts to defund these programs. During last year’s appropriation’s process, the Senate proposed just $2.2 million in funding for Fulbright-Hays, just enough for continuation grants and an effort to phase out the program. The House, meanwhile, proposed level funding at $7 million. In final negotiations for FY 2017, Congress ultimately agreed on the House’s number, ensuring the (temporary) continuation of Fulbright-Hays.
Given the Senate’s recent history of proposed cuts and the new proposal in the House, it is crucial that Members of Congress hear from us now. It is not too late to encourage the House to change course and restore funding for Fulbright-Hays. The Senate, meanwhile, is just starting to roll out appropriations bills and there is time to influence their numbers.
Once you’ve taken action, please recruit more advocates! Check out our Title VI/Fulbright-Hays graphics and use them to spread the word on social media.
Yesterday afternoon, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies approved a bill that would provide $145 million each for the NEH and the NEA in FY 2018. While this is a $4.8 million reduction from the FY 2017 levels, we read this number as the subcommittee’s strong rejection of the president’s proposal to defund the Endowments.
In comparison to this 3.2% funding cut for the NEH and the NEA, the Interior bill reduces spending as a whole by 2.6% from FY 2017 in order to adhere to the FY 2018 budget caps. This makes the reduction to the NEH and the NEA fairly proportional to the overall reductions. The Woodrow Wilson Center, meanwhile, would receive $10 million in funding, which is a $500,000 or 4.7% cut from FY 2017 levels. Other programs and agencies funded by the same bill are facing much more severe cuts; the EPA, for example, would see a 6.5% reduction.
We are grateful for the subcommittee’s support, but we remain concerned that an amendment reducing funding for the NEH could be proposed in the full committee markup. Should that happen, we will reach out to our advocates in appropriators’ districts asking them to call their Members of Congress. If the bill does make it to the House floor, we will issue a broader action alert asking all of our advocates to contact their Members of Congress and reaffirm their support for the NEH. In addition, we still await draft numbers from the Senate.
As the appropriations process continues, we will also continue to advocate that the proposed funding cut for the NEH not only be reversed, but that the NEH’s budget be increased to our requested amount of $155 million. Congress is currently operating under the confines of low budget caps for FY 2018. If those caps are renegotiated to accommodate the majority’s funding priorities, supporters of the NEH might be able to push through level funding or an increase in final legislation.
The appropriations process is still in its early stages and we will continue to issue updates when urgent action is needed. In the meantime, visit our Take Action page for multiple options for supporting the NEH.
The Trump Administration’s budget request is nearly uniform in its attack on funding streams that support humanities research, teaching, and programming. The call to eliminate funding for the Department of Education’s International Education Programs (known as Title VI and Fulbright-Hays) is in some ways the most menacing because Congress has tended to be less supportive of these programs in recent years than many of our other priorities.
Title VI and Fulbright-Hays play an essential role in ensuring that students in the United States have the opportunity learn about the history, culture, and languages of all world regions. At a modest cost of just over $72 million per year, Title VI and Fulbright-Hays support:
- Around 100 National Resource Centers across the country on world regions and languages
- Stipends that enable students to study less commonly taught languages
- Development of instructional materials for less commonly taught languages
- Outreach to K-12 schools across the country, leading to the internationalization of K-12 curricula
- The internationalization of business school curricula
- Research grants for graduate students, scholars, and teachers to travel abroad to conduct cutting-edge research and deepen their language expertise.
Despite the importance of ensuring that U.S. citizens have the capacity to engage productively across international borders, the President’s budget request called for the defunding of these programs.
The administration’s ostensible reason for these cuts came in the Department of Education’s Congressional Budget Justification, which was released shortly after the president’s budget. As is the case for the NEH, the Department of Education’s Congressional Budget Justification provides Congress with the rationale for the administration’s various funding requests. These documents, while originating from agencies and departments, must reflect administration priorities.
The Budget Justification recognizes “the critical need for our Nation to have a readily available pool of international area and advanced language experts for economic, foreign affairs, and national security purposes.” Nonetheless, it contends that it is unclear whether this goal is consistent with the Department’s “core mission.” In addition, the justification claims that achieving this goal would be better accomplished by an agency whose primary mission is U.S. national security.
Despite the brief nod to multiple uses for international and foreign language expertise, the assertion that these programs would be better suited to a national security agency fails to recognize how widespread our need for such expertise actually is.
Success in the international marketplace is dependent on employees who understand foreign languages, markets, cultures, politics, laws, and societies. Further, we confront a variety of challenges that are global in nature: from pandemics to food security and threats to communications, transportation, and financial systems.
Title VI and Fulbright-Hays ensure that students who ultimately pursue science, agriculture, medicine, nursing, engineering, law, cyber security, aviation administration, and many other fields have international, cultural, and language skills. A solely military-focused program would not be well-positioned to address the full range of challenges to U.S. interests abroad and ensure American success in the 21st century.
Even if we accept the premise that these programs would be better implemented by a national-security focused department or agency, the administration does not actually propose moving the programs to another department consistent with that aim. Rather, they propose simply eliminating the programs without replacement, which would damage goals that they themselves acknowledge in their budget request to be “critical” for “economic, foreign affairs, and national security purposes.”
The Congressional Landscape
Congress will now begin an appropriations process to determine the level of funding for all discretionary programs, including Title VI and Fulbright-Hays. It is under no obligation to adopt the administration’s request. That said, Senate appropriators have shown uneven support for these programs in recent years. Last summer, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, following the lead of the Obama Administration, proposed level funding for Title VI but a major cut to Fulbright-Hays, which would have prevented the funding of any new grants. The House, meanwhile, proposed level funding for both programs. When Congress finally passed an omnibus spending package for FY 2017, Title VI and Fulbright-Hays received level funding, in keeping with the House numbers. Given this precarious support, it is crucial that Members of Congress continue to hear from their constituents about these programs.
What You Can Do
You can write or call your Members of Congress, here, with just a couple of clicks to urge them to fully fund Title VI and Fulbright-Hays. It just takes 30 seconds!
Want to do more? Check out our Take Action page for more ways to advocate.
And spread the word. We have developed Social Media graphics that will help you recruit more advocates for Title VI and Fulbright-Hays. Check out our Advocacy Resources page to find them.
In the past day, several humanities advocates have expressed concern about language in the Congressional Budget Justification that the National Endowment for the Humanities released on May 23. This document requests $42.307 million for FY 2018 and justifies the request as the amount needed for the “orderly closure of the agency.” It also notes that “no new grants or matching offers will be made beginning in FY 2018.”
Given the alarming nature of this language, we want to explain the role that Congressional Budget Justifications play in the budget process. We also want to emphasize that this language is not, independent of the Presidential Budget Request, cause for concern.
Congressional Budget Justifications
Congressional Budget Justifications are documents submitted by federal agencies to Congress in the wake of a Presidential Budget Request. These requests are required to explain why the administration requested the specific amount it did and how the agency intends to use that funding.
Most importantly, these statements must reflect the administration's policy.
They are often pre-approved by the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President to ensure they conform to the Presidential Budget Request.
NEH’s Budget Justification and Its Impact on Future Grant Competitions
Given that the budget justification must follow through on the administration’s call to shut down the Endowment, the document must also state that the NEH will not make grants for FY18.
It is essential to remember, however, that this will be the case only if Congress adopts the president’s request. If Congress, instead, provides enough funding for the NEH to award grants next year, the NEH will do so.
What this Means for Current Grant Programs
The NEH will continue to run competitions for all of the grant programs posted on their website. You can review them here and are encouraged to apply!
What We Can Do
Given the president’s request, the NEH is constrained from asking for any additional funding. This makes it all the more critical that we step up and make our voices heard so that Congress understands the value of the agency. You can see all the ways that you, as well as your organization, colleagues, and friends can advocate for the NEH here. Just have 30 seconds? Contact Congress with only two clicks here!
This morning the Trump Administration released its Presidential Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2018. This document expands on a budget blueprint released by the Administration in March that called for the elimination of funding for most of our budget priorities. As anticipated, this detailed request reiterates the earlier calls for the elimination of the NEH, IMLS, NHPRC, and Title VI and Fulbright Hays.
The Administration requests a small amount of funding for the NEH and IMLS for FY 2018—$42 million for NEH and $23 for IMLS. For NEH, this amount represents the salaries and expenses required to shut down the agency and the amount required to honor pre-existing grant commitments (specifically matching funds). For IMLS, the money is designated for an “orderly close out.”
The request also calls for the Woodrow Wilson Center to transition to exclusively private funding and requests $7.5 million in FY 2018 to facilitate that transition.
For the other funding priorities, the budget requests no appropriation for FY 2018.
You can view our complete funding chart here.
Next Steps in the Budget and Appropriations Process
Now that the Administration has issued its formal request, Congress will set an overall level of discretionary spending through a Congressional Budget Resolution. The Appropriations Committee will then assign spending levels to its twelve subcommittees, and then the subcommittees will draft individual bills. We anticipate that this work will extend through the summer.
It is important to remember that the Administration’s budget request is only advisory, and Congress will ultimately make decisions about funding. In recent years, the NEH has received strong bipartisan and bicameral support from the appropriations committees, including the increased funding for FY 2017 announced just three weeks ago. While the overall fiscal constraints that the subcommittees will face are still unclear and the budget is likely to be tighter than last year, we are encouraged by this bipartisan support.
Advocacy in the Coming Months
As Congress begins it work on FY 2018, it is important for Members of Congress to hear from their constituents. Please check out the multiple ways to advocate for the NEH and other humanities programs on our Take Action page.
Over the coming weeks, we will continue to execute our strategy of recruiting new advocates in the districts and states of the Members of Congress we expect to play a decisive role in blocking attempts to eliminate humanities funding. This outreach has already garnered an enthusiastic response from leaders of higher education institutions, museum directors, and NEH grantees.
This is likely to be a long battle. We will keep you informed as the situation develops and let you know about key moments when your members and colleagues can make a difference.
Earlier today, Congress approved an omnibus appropriations package to fund the government for the remaining five months of FY 2017. This bill includes several significant victories for the humanities community.
The bill provides $149.8 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. This reflects a $2 million increase over FY 2016 and the second consecutive increase for the NEH and NEA.
The bill also provides increases for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Library of Congress.
Particularly noteworthy is level funding for Title VI and Fulbright-Hays despite draft legislation in the Senate last summer that proposed slashing funding for Fulbright-Hays. You can view a detailed funding chart here.
These successes are a testament to the steadfast efforts of the humanities community, which included scores of op-eds and letters to the editor, hundreds of Humanities Advocacy Day visits, and more than 150,000 messages and thousands of phone calls to Capitol Hill offices in support of the NEH since January.
But the omnibus appropriations package has also caused some confusion about the ongoing threats to the NEH.
Some news outlets have framed the FY 2017 package as Congress rejecting Trump’s proposal to eliminate the NEH, NEA, IMLS, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That is not the case. Trump’s budget blueprint, released in March, proposed eliminating funding for all of these programs for FY 2018, and Congress is just beginning (not concluding) the Budget and Appropriations process for FY 2018.
While the support the NEH and other humanities funding received for FY 2017 is encouraging, the dynamics surrounding the FY 2018 appropriations process are likely to be different than the final negotiations over FY 2017. The Trump Administration has sought to influence this process from the beginning, and Members of Congress will be under increased pressure to follow through on the President’s agenda.
In addition, the fiscal environment for FY 2018 could be much more constrained than last year. The budget caps for FY 2018 are currently lower than for FY 2017, and new administration funding priorities, including increased spending for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, threaten to divert scarce funding from domestic priorities. In this type of fiscal environment, appropriators may be required to choose how to allocate cuts—even deep ones—among programs they support.
With FY 2017 appropriations now behind us, our attention turns fully to FY 2018. It is crucial that all Members of Congress continue to hear from their constituents as efforts to defund the NEH and other humanities programs could gain traction at any step in the process.
In addition to contacting your Members of Congress, there are many other ways to take action in support of the NEH, IMLS, Title VI/Fulbright-Hays, and the humanities more generally. Please visit our Take Action page for several options.
And note the lesson from FY 2017: when constituents speak out, Members of Congress can be convinced that humanities funding is essential.
This morning, President Trump released a budget blueprint that calls for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute for Museums and Library Services, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. It also calls for the reduction or elimination of the Department of Education's International Education programs.
This is an assault on a wide range of humanities programs that support research, teaching, museums, libraries, documentary film, and the preservation of cultural heritage. These programs are essential to a healthy civic culture and bridging divides in our communities.
Our attention now turns to Congress, which has the ability to fund these programs despite the administration’s proposals.
A Budget Proposal is Just a Proposal
The administration’s budget blueprint is fundamentally advisory. The House and Senate will now begin their own budget and appropriations processes, starting with their own budget resolutions. Like the administration’s budget blueprint, these Congressional budget resolutions are also largely non-binding.
The Appropriations committees will ultimately draft legislation that sets funding levels for the NEH, NEA, IMLS, International Education, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and other humanities programs that are not specifically addressed in the administration’s blueprint. In the last several years, we have seen strong, bipartisan support on the Appropriations committee for the NEH, in particular, including a $1.9 million increase in FY 2016 and increases proposed by both chambers for FY 2017.
It is critically important that this year’s draft appropriations bills in the House and Senate subcommittees provide adequate funding for humanities programs. Strong draft appropriations levels will put our priorities in a good position to weather this storm. We would then need to be prepared to block amendments that would cut or eliminate funding both in committee and on the floor. If, in contrast, one or both subcommittees do not provide funding for these priorities, we will need to be prepared to restore funding by amendment in subcommittee, committee, or on the floor.
Mobilizing Support Now and in Coming Months
Earlier this week, a record number of advocates met with their Members of Congress and made the case for robust funding for humanities programs. Last week, the state humanities councils did the same. The feedback from these meetings showed continuing bipartisan support, despite—or perhaps because of—reports that the administration would call for elimination of the NEH. That said, Members of Congress must continue to hear from their constituents to bolster their resolve to fight for the NEH and other humanities funding priorities.
You can take action in support of all of these programs here. Please also spread the word via email and on social media.
By later this afternoon, we will have updated advocacy resources under the resources tab on our website—including issue briefs, an NEH fact sheet, and images for use on social media—that you might consider using in your social media advocacy.
This year’s appropriations process is likely to last for a number of months. While we are concerned about the Administration’s proposal, we remain optimistic that the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the International Education programs of the Department of Education, the Institute for Museums and Library Services, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars can be preserved through the hard work of advocates across the country.