What You Need To Know
On May 23rd 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 the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Institute for Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and several other important cultural agencies.
The Administration requested $42 million for the NEH for FY 2018 which represents the salaries and expenses required to shut down the agency and the amount required to honor pre-existing grant commitments.
The Importance of NEH and NEA
Since their founding 50 years ago, the NEH and the NEA have supported high-quality, grassroots programming in communities across the country, reaching nearly every American with opportunities to understand, to celebrate, to discover new perspectives, to contemplate, reflect, and engage. As Thomas P. Campbell wrote in a New York Times op-ed, the elimination of such agencies “would in essence eliminate investment by the American government in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens.”
NEH provides core funding to Virginia Foundation for the Humanities through the Federal/State Partnership. We leverage this investment of federal funds 7:1 in donations from corporate, foundation, and private sources. That money is then invested in programs across the state that benefit all Virginians.
- Our Encyclopedia Virginia, called an “invaluable resource for Virginia teachers,” supports enhanced, high-tech learning experiences for thousands of K-12 students across the state.
- Our grants program reaches an estimated annual audience of 1.5 million, and matches VFH dollars at an average of 4:1.
- Our radio programs and podcasts, BackStory and With Good Reason, educate and entertain millions worldwide, enhancing the current-day relevance of American history and Virginia culture, including a multi-part series on the Vietnam War.
- Our Virginia Festival of the Book, the largest community-based book event in the mid-Atlantic region, promotes literacy and stimulates the local and regional economy by drawing annual audiences of more than 20,000.
- Our Virginia Folklife Program highlights and preserves the Commonwealth’s unique and evolving cultural traditions, enlightening audiences of all ages with demonstrations that range from mandolin playing and salt making to gospel singing and Bolivian dance.
- Our community programs work at the most local level to heal historical racial and cultural divisions, educate citizens about their own history, support veterans, and stimulate regional economies.
- Our content academies have served school systems across the state by helping teachers connect with their increasingly diverse student body with sensitivity and historical accuracy, harnessing local community expertise.
These programs, and many others in Virginia and nationwide, would be put at risk by the elimination of the NEH and NEA.
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.
What Can You Do?
As Congress begins its work on FY 2018, it is important for Members of Congress to hear from their constituents. The National Humanities Alliance’s Take Action page is a great place to start.
You can also show your support for NEH on social media using the #SaveTheNEH hashtag or updating your profile picture on Facebook with a #SaveTheNEH ribbon.
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 advocacy can make a difference.
Sign up for our e-newsletter to be sure you receive our advocacy updates.