Support the NEH and the State Humanities Councils

January 27, 2017

Support the NEH and the State Humanities Councils

The recent news that President Trump’s first budget could eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) was understandably alarming to humanities supporters.  The report, which initially appeared in The Hill, described budget plans being floated with the White House that would include elimination of NEH and its sister agency, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), privatization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and deep cuts to a wide array of other federal programs.  The report was followed by a flurry of articles pointing out that the combined savings achieved through these cuts would be a mere 0.02 percent of federal spending and that eliminating even small agencies would be a significant undertaking.

Although no plans have emerged directly from the White House, a budget outline will likely be released by late February and a full budget request in late April or May.  The Federation has asked councils with members on the Interior Appropriations subcommittees to contact those members and has encouraged councils with newly elected members to educate those members about the important work councils carry out in each of their districts.  Councils have already heard back from some of the offices contacted.

Strengthening Individuals, Communities, and the Nation as a Whole

Proposals to severely cut or eliminate NEH, while dismaying, are not new. The NEH and the state humanities councils have weathered previous storms by attracting strong bipartisan support and offering outstanding programming.  State humanities councils are proud of their programs, which take place in rural, suburban, and urban communities throughout the country, and benefit a wide range of Americans, including veterans, seniors, rural populations, urban residents, children, youth, students, teachers, Native Americans and other minority groups, and many more.  Here are a few examples of the many council programs that strengthen individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole:

  • Councils support innovative programs on veterans’ issues. Writing workshops and reading and discussion programs help veterans reintegrate into their communities. Literature and Medicine programs allow VA hospital staff to better understand and empathize with their patients, which improves the quality of their care. Community dialogues, speakers series, and films enable the general public to more fully appreciate the challenges veterans and their families face.
  • Councils foster early childhood education through family literacy programs that support children’s future educational and economic success, strengthen family ties, and increase parents’ job prospects by improving their reading skills.
  • Councils strengthen communities by investing in the nation’s cultural and educational infrastructure. Councils enrich communities’ quality of life and create a sense of place by supporting cultural programming, cultural institutions such as museums and libraries, and lifelong learning opportunities. Communities that improve their quality of life can invigorate their economies by attracting businesses and a highly skilled, educated workforce.
  • Councils promote K-12 education by providing online resources for students and summer institutes, weekend workshops, and other professional development programs for teachers. In many states, these programs are the only continuing education opportunities for humanities teachers. By better preparing teachers in their subjects, these programs benefit students by improving the quality of their education and benefit taxpayers by reducing costly teacher turnover.

State Humanities Councils by the Numbers

Councils partner with a wide range of organizations; offer programs that reach millions of people each year; and use federal dollars to leverage additional funds from corporations, foundations, individuals, and state governments.  In 2015, state humanities councils . . .

  • Leveraged $5 for every federal dollar awarded in grants
  • Served more than 44 million people through in-person humanities events
  • Reached almost 120 million people through virtual humanities events
  • Partnered with more than 9,200 organizations
  • Conducted or funded programs in over 5,300 communities in nearly every Congressional district

What We’re Doing Next and How You Can Help Support NEH and the State Humanities Councils

The Federation is monitoring the situation closely, consulting with our partner organizations, and working with our Legislative Committee to prepare for a full advocacy campaign within the coming weeks.  We hope you will alert your networks to be prepared to jump into action in support of the humanities when we put out the call, and we invite you to visit the National Humanities Alliance site for early action.

We also encourage you to advocate for the NEH and the councils by participating in Humanities on the Hill on March 6 -8, 2017 in Washington, DC. Humanities on the Hill is the Federation’s annual national advocacy event that brings together state councils supporters from across the nation to meet with their congressional representatives.  For more information, click this link:  http://www.statehumanities.org/humanities-on-the-hill/

We look forward to working with you to preserve federal funding for the NEH and the state humanities councils!