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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Earlier today, the House and Senate each approved an omnibus appropriations package. The president has pledged to sign it into law. This package boosts NEH’s funding for the first time in six years and provides level funding for the severely threatened Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs.
What does it take to make sure that languages like Hindi, Javanese, Urdu, Ukrainian, and Swahili are taught consistently and effectively in the United States? And to provide opportunities for students to acquire expertise in international cultures to complement their language skills? And to support the training of specialists—from scholars to diplomats to aid workers—with advanced language and area studies training?
The Humanities Indicators recently released a new analysis of federal support for the humanities: this is funding that goes to the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as programs at various other agencies, including many Smithsonian Institution museums, the Department of Education, the National Park Service, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Together, the funding supports scholars and teachers, museums, cultural institutions, public programs and preservation activities.
I met the film-maker Larry Hott three years before he began filming Rising Voices/Hótȟaŋiŋpi, an NEH-funded documentary that tells the story of our tribe's efforts to revitalize the Lakota language. At the time, I was an avid learner of the Lakota language, but I wasn't yet an instructor in the Lakota Language Nest, a pre-school where children are immersed in the Lakota language. The year I met him, Larry came to the community to take preliminary notes. The following year we recorded audio, and the year after we recorded video. The fourth year was when we recorded the majority of the film. When I was asked for an interview, I thought it was a great opportunity to tell the story of our pre-school and of Standing Rock’s communities more generally.