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.
Click here to send a message to your Members of Congress and the President to let them know that you value the National Endowment for the Humanities.
News broke this morning that the in-coming Trump Administration has a budget blueprint that proposes the elimination of NEH, along with other cultural agencies, and a major downsizing of others.
This news has elicited great concern from the humanities community, and it is undoubtedly time to rally support for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
That said, this blueprint is not an official proposal. The Trump Administration will be shaping its budget request over the coming months with broad input and we look forward to an opportunity to demonstrate the value of federal funding for NEH.
We are also heartened by Republican support in Congress, which has been strong over the past few years. Indeed, Republican-controlled appropriations committees have supported increases for both NEA and NEH for the past two fiscal years. More broadly, many Republicans have opposed far more minor cuts to the agency.
Consistently, Members of Congress have been compelled by advocacy that points out that:
- Through a rigorous peer-review process, NEH funds cutting-edge research, museum exhibits that reach all parts of the country, and cultural preservation of local heritage that would otherwise be lost.
- NEH’s Standing Together initiative funds reading groups for veterans that help them process their experiences through discussions on the literature of war; writing programs for veterans suffering from PTSD; and training for Veterans Affairs staff to help them better serve veterans.
- NEH grants catalyze private investment. Small organizations leverage NEH grants to attract additional private, local support. NEH’s Challenge Grant program has leveraged federal funds at a 3:1 ratio to enable organizations to raise more than $3 billion in private support. State Humanities Councils, meanwhile, leverage $5 for every dollar of federal investment. Grants through the Public Programs division have leveraged more than $16 billion in non-federal support, an 8:1 ratio.
We ask you now to send a message to your Members of Congress and the President to make clear that you, as a constituent, value the humanities.
Going forward, we will call on you again as the Congressional appropriations process for FY 2018 begins.
We also encourage you to join us for our Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day on March 13th and 14th. Our goal is for constituents to visit Members of Congress from all 50 states to ensure that Congress serves as a stopgap to any efforts to defund NEH.
Finally, we encourage you to spread word on social media. The more advocates receiving our alerts, the stronger our collective impact!
This week, October 3rd through October 7th, is Humanities Check-In Week. We are joining forces with the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities on this nation-wide campaign to “check in” with Members of Congress to remind them that federal funding for the humanities is essential.
Please join us by writing to your Members of Congress in support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and encouraging others to do so. Your messages are critical to show Members that their constituents value the National Endowment for the Humanities and the humanities more generally. While you’re doing this, government relations staff from higher education institutions will be contacting their Members of Congress to highlight the dynamic humanities work happening on their campuses and underscore that federal funding provides essential support for this work.
We are launching this week-long event at this particular moment for three key reasons.
The appropriations cycle has shifted in recent years.
Traditionally, advocacy for Congressional appropriations takes place in February and March as the administration releases its budget request and the House and Senate appropriations committees craft and release their spending bills. This is why we host our Humanities Advocacy Day in March every year.
In recent years, Congress has failed to pass those appropriations bills. As a result, the appropriations cycle has extended into the fall with continuing resolutions and, finally, an omnibus appropriations package, which funds the government with one bill. Last year, an omnibus was passed in December, and we expect similar timing this year. Given this new timeline, it is crucial to tell Members of Congress that humanities funding is essential in March on advocacy day and to check in with a reminder as the appropriations process heats up again in the fall.
In general, Congress should hear more from us.
Many Members of Congress have not heard from their constituents about the humanities recently. We and our partners advocate year-round, but it is important for Members of Congress to hear that their constituents believe the humanities are important. Yes, we hold advocacy day in March to align with the appropriations cycle, but we also see it as a key opportunity to educate Members of Congress about the humanities in their communities irrespective of funding requests. Ideally, this engagement between the Member and their local humanities community should be on-going and involve invitations to humanities events and updates on the impact of grants to the district and innovative programs on campuses and in communities. Humanities Check-In, scheduled about six months after advocacy day, ensures that your legislators hear about the humanities from their constituents at least twice a year and that we set the stage for a deepening relationship.
It is National Arts and Humanities Month
Since 1993, October has been celebrated as National Arts and Humanities Month. President Obama issues a proclamation marking the occasion each year in late September. In this year’s statement, he noted “in many ways, the arts and humanities reflect our national soul. They are central to who we are as Americans—as dreamers and storytellers, creators and visionaries.” We encourage you to celebrate this month in many ways, including with a message to your Members of Congress to reiterate the value of the humanities.
What Can I Do?
Please join the campaign by writing your Member of Congress—it only takes one minute! Then, spread the word by sharing the link to the campaign or this blog post on Facebook or Twitter, and ask your friends to take action in support of the humanities!
Thank you for your support!
We started to hear that good news was on its way last week, and this morning it arrived: the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill providing $65.103 million for Title VI and $7.061 million for Fulbright-Hays, international education programs. These funding levels, the same as last year, are a significant victory after the President requested and the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a 69% cut to Fulbright-Hays.
Thank you to all who took action to urge your Representatives to support at least level funding for Fulbright-Hays and Title VI. The outpouring of support for international education was remarkable! Thanks to letters from advocates, we reached 419 of the 434 members of the House. This included Representatives from all 50 states. All together the House received over 4,500 messages.
The House and Senate will ultimately need to reconcile their differences on Fulbright-Hays funding for FY 2017. When this process begins to unfold, we will reach out to our advocates again to urge their Senators to support the House’s levels.
Thank you again to all who sent messages to your Members of Congress!
On Thursday, June 9 the Senate Appropriations Committee sent to the Senate floor a Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill that would cut Fulbright-Hays by 69% to $2.168 million while maintaining level funding for Title VI at $65.103 million. The proposed cut to Fulbright-Hays would devastate the program—if enacted, there will be no new competitions for Fulbright-Hays grants in the coming year.
What is Fulbright-Hays?
Title VI and Fulbright-Hays are the Department of Education’s programs that support foreign language learning and international education. Fulbright-Hays, specifically, 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.
These programs have been extremely effective. A 2008 Department of Education study concluded that participants in the Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad program were more likely to finish their degrees and did so in less time than their peers, and that 90% of graduates directly utilized their foreign language and area studies expertise in their careers.
Haven’t these programs been targeted before?
Overall, the Title VI and Fulbright Hays infrastructure has been severely depleted in recent years. Due to disproportionate funding reductions since FY 2011, Fulbright-Hays’ budget has already declined from $15.6 million in FY 2010 to $7.1 million in FY 2016. Title VI’s budget, meanwhile, has declined from $110.3 in FY 2010 to $65.1 in FY 2016, resulting in 25% fewer nationally recognized resource centers, 18% fewer undergraduate and doctoral fellowships, fewer training opportunities for students and teachers, and fewer outreach activities to government and business.
Just last year, the humanities community rallied to defeat a proposed 35% cut to Title VI which would have amounted to a 63% decrease in funding since FY 2010. After more than 15,000 letters to Congress and many meetings with Congressional staff, the programs ultimately received level funding in the final omnibus appropriations package.
The Senate has sent this draft legislation to the floor, where we expect that it will pass, as it did in committee. However, the House has not yet released its own draft Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill. It is important that the House draft provides level-funding for Fulbright-Hays, thereby setting up a difference to be resolved in conference or in a final omnibus appropriations package.
At this critical time as the House considers funding levels for Title VI and Fulbright-Hays, please urge your Members of Congress to oppose cuts to Fulbright-Hays! Click here to send a message to your elected officials. It takes just one minute!
Supporters of the humanities were understandably concerned last week when the House Budget Committee called for eliminating federal funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities and other cultural agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the House Budget Committee has called for the zeroing out NEH’s funding. Its 2017 Budget Report contains the same language used in budget reports since FY 2012. As in previous years, the report states that cultural agencies go “beyond the core mission of the Federal Government,” that government support raises the “risk of political interference,” and that private sources alone should fund the humanities. Similar language has been included in a series of policy briefs issued by the Cato Institute since at least the mid-1990s.
The 2017 Budget Report is concerning in that it reflects a persistent ideological opposition to federal funding for humanities research, teaching, programming, and preservation. It also ignores two key facts about NEH and humanities funding: that NEH grants are peer-reviewed and that private funding for the humanities is limited and tends to have a much narrower reach than NEH funding.
That said, the resolution will likely have little impact on how the appropriations process proceeds this year and how much funding the NEH and other cultural agencies receive. Why is this the case?
- The Budget Committee’s Budget Resolution and accompanying report sets the overall funding level for the government and lays out the committee’s vision for federal spending over a 10-year period. Aside from the overall spending level, the document is largely symbolic. It is used to assert the majority’s priorities for the media and as a rallying point for the party, but its programmatic recommendations are non-binding. It does not dictate funding levels for individual departments, agencies, or programs.
- The Appropriations Committee and its twelve subcommittees—not the Budget Committee—decide how funds will be allocated among the departments, agencies, and programs that come under their purview.
- The Budget Committee is not ideologically aligned with the Appropriations Committee. In recent years, the Budget Committee, particularly in the House, has been filled with many of the House’s most conservative members. By contrast, the vast majority of members of the Appropriations Committee are pragmatic and more moderate. More specifically, the Appropriations Committee is far friendlier to the humanities. Just last year, it approved a nearly $2 million increase for NEH, the first increase in 6 years. As the budget crises have unfolded on Capitol Hill in recent years, members of the Appropriations Committee, including Republicans, have become increasingly and even openly exasperated with the ideological rigidity of the Budget Committee.
- As the economy has improved and increased revenues have undermined arguments for continued fiscal austerity, there are signs that more Members of Congress are willing to support humanities funding. Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and David Price (D-NC) wrote a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting that NEH be funded at $155 million, a level that would increase its budget for FY 2017 by over $7 million dollars. When our advocates met with Members of Congress on Humanities Advocacy Day, they asked them to sign on to this letter and support an increase. In the end, 136 Representatives signed, including ten Republicans, eight of whom had met with our advocates. Last year, only 116 signed—including only four Republicans.
Given all this, the Budget Committee Report is not a good indicator of how Congress as a whole, or appropriators in particular, feel about federal investment in the humanities. That said, the opinions of the Budget Committee should not be dismissed. Many members of the committee are quite vocal. Their commentary promotes the perception that support for NEH is a partisan position and that Republicans who support federal funding have heterodox views. This perception could ultimately undermine moderate Republican’s support for the NEH and create pressure to defund the agency should Republicans control the White House and Congress. In summary, the Budget Resolution will likely have little impact on the appropriations process this year, but it is a reminder that advocates need to continue making the case for federal investment in the humanities.
It is March and the appropriations process on Capitol Hill is gaining steam. In early February, President Obama released his budget request, which outlined how his administration hoped to allocate $4.2 trillion in FY 2017. On March 23rd, the House Budget Committee issued its non-binding budget recommendations. Now the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are at work to allocate funds across the government, and Members of Congress are communicating their top funding priorities to those committees.
We host Humanities Advocacy Day every March to align with this process so that as Members of Congress weigh priorities, they know that federal funding for the humanities is crucial to communities around the country.
This year’s Humanities Advocacy Day, on March 15th, brought advocates from 40 states into Congressional Offices. These advocates were broadly representative of the humanities community: leaders and members of scholarly societies; deans and faculty from two- and four-year colleges and universities; representatives from humanities centers; and archivists and librarians. Together, they advocated for a range of humanities funding streams and policy issues. Below, Sylvea Hollis, a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Iowa who is currently working at the American Alliance of Museums, discusses humanities funding with James Rice in Senator Grassley's office.
Most advocates championed the value of the National Endowment for the Humanities and urged their Members of Congress to sign letters circulating in the House and Senate requesting increased funding for NEH. In making this pitch, they described their own work and highlighted NEH grants to the Members’ districts. They worked to build understanding of the NEH’s new Common Good initiative, which harnesses the power of the humanities to address society’s most pressing challenges. Below, Dan Kubis of the University of Pittsburgh discusses the university's "Year of the Humanities" with a staffer from Senator Bob Casey's office.
Advocates also noted that NEH’s funding has been severely eroded in recent years. Despite its first increase in six years for FY 2016, it is still operating at 19% of its FY 2010 budget. While the president’s FY 2017 request would allot nearly $2 million more to NEH, bringing its funding level to $149.8 million, we are requesting $155 million in the hope of moving closer to rebuilding NEH’s capacity.
Many participants also advocated for Title VI and Fulbright-Hays. These programs faced a nearly 40% cut in FY 2011, from $125.9 million to $75.8 million, and then subsequent cuts in the following year. For the past three years, these programs have been funded at $72.2 million. Despite this recent decline, President Obama requested a 69% reduction to the Fulbright-Hays program for FY 2017. Our advocates urged Congress to reject these proposed cuts, explaining, based on first-hand experience, why programs that fund scholars, students, and teachers to develop deep cultural knowledge should receive more funding, not less. They also asked their Members of Congress to sign letters circulating in the House and Senate that asked for at least level funding (House) and a $6.5 million increase (Senate).
Still others advocated for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), commonly referred to as the “grant-making arm” of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). They urged Congress to provide at least $5 million for the NHPRC grant program, as requested in the President’s budget. Those advocating for NHPRC discussed their first-hand experience working on projects such as the George Washington Papers at the University of Virginia and the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers at George Washington University.
Other advocates discussed a bill to protect cultural heritage in Syria, funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and funding for K-12 history and civics educations. For an overview of all of NHA's policy priorities, click here.
Social media was a great tool for amplifying the message of the day. As Rachel Arteaga, of the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington noted, "Many of my posts, which were short and simple notes of gratitude for having taken the time to meet with me on the importance of the humanities, were noticed and shared by the offices. I am encouraged that these channels will continue to be effective means of communicating updates on NEH-funded work in my state in the months between our annual visits to Capitol Hill."
In conjunction with these Hill visits, we ran an action alert so that advocates who were unable to travel to Washington could let their Members of Congress know that they support humanities funding. And it isn’t too late! You can still take action to ask your Members of Congress to support funding for the humanities.
Photography by Kwana Strong Photography (http://www.kwanastrongphotography.com/)