History Programs Face Major Cuts in Federal Budget






On April 12, the House Appropriations Committee released a list of proposed cuts in federal programs for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011. Nearly every program of interest to the historical and archival communities was reduced. However the fact that some, such as Teaching American History grants, survived is a testament to the dogged lobbying efforts of the National Coalition for History, its constituent organizations and allies in civics education.

The House and Senate still need to pass the budget bill (H.R. 1473) by the end of this week when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires. While there remains dissatisfaction on the right and the left in Congress with the deal worked out by the House and Senate leadership and the White House, the bill is expected to pass.

As noted above, the Appropriations Committee only released a list of reductions with no details and the bill language does not provide clarification in every case. Usually a conference report is issued along with an appropriations bill, giving agencies instructions on how funding should be allocated. However, it is unclear at this time whether or when a conference report will be forthcoming and what discretion agency heads will have at the programmatic level if it is not issued.

Teaching American History (TAH) grants (Department of Education):

The Teaching American History Grants program sustained a cut of $73 million
(-61%) down from $119 million in FY ’10 to $46 million. While this is disheartening, throughout the budget process House Republicans had repeatedly targeted the program for elimination. The Administration as well had zeroed out TAH for FY ’11 and proposed consolidating history education in a new Well Rounded Education program where it would have competed for funding with arts, music, foreign languages, civics, economics and other subjects.

So the fact that TAH survived at all is a major victory. Had the TAH program been eliminated it would have been nearly impossible to resuscitate it in the upcoming FY ’12 budget process and down the road in the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

One question is whether the $46 million will be enough to fund new FY ’11 TAH grants. At a public forum earlier this year, Department of Education staff stated continuing grants would have priority in receiving FY ‘11 funding and any remaining funds would go to new grants.

In FY ‘08, the Education Department awarded three year TAH grants, but provided the option for the grantees to apply for additional funds for a fourth or fifth year. The FY ’08 grantees have been required to file detailed progress reports with the department and they are being evaluated to determine whether they merit additional funding.

The application deadline was April 4. However, there is no way of knowing yet how many FY ‘08 grantees applied for additional out-year funding and if they will qualify. As a result, given the limited amount of funds available, conceivably there could be no new TAH grants made this year.

National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC):

The NHPRC was cut $6 million from $13 million in FY ‘10 down to $7 million this year. While this is a significant reduction, the House in a previous CR had cut the NHPRC to a $4 million level and there were House Republicans pushing for outright elimination of the commission.

In FY ’10 the NHPRC received $8.5 million for grants. An additional $4.5 million was set-aside to fund a project to digitize and make the papers of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington available on-line. While the Founding Fathers Project is on-going, that funding was always intended as a one-time allocation to jump start the initiative.

Thus, the practical reality is that the amount of grant funding available to the NHPRC in FY ’11 was reduced by $1.5 million.

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH):

The NEH budget was reduced $12.5 million (-7.5%) from the FY ’10 level of $167.5 million down to a level of $155 million. There had been a series of amendments to previous CRs in the House that would have imposed more draconian cuts in the NEH budget which were fended off by the advocacy efforts of the National Humanities Alliance.

National Park Service:

While no programmatic details are available concerning the Park Service’s history-related programs, two preservation programs were eliminated in one of the short term CR’s passed earlier this year. They had been targeted for elimination under the Administration’s proposed FY ’11 budget.

  • Save America’s Treasures program–eliminated (-$14.8 million): These funds are used to make small one-time grants for specific local historic preservation projects to preserve a building or artifact which might otherwise be lost.
  • Preserve America program—eliminated ($4.6 million): This program provides small grants to local communities in support of heritage tourism, education and historic preservation planning activities.

Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS):

The IMLS budget was reduced $44 million down to a level of $238 million. In FY ’10 the IMLS received $282.3 million, $16 million of which were congressional earmarks. The $44 million reduction includes the amount of those earmarks plus $28 million of cuts in programmatic funding. There is no breakdown available yet as to how the money will be divided between museum and library programs.




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