After Big Wins for the Humanities in FY 23 What Comes Next?

The following article was issued by Alexandra Klein, the Communications and Government Relations Manager of the National Humanities Alliance (NHA). Sigma Tau Delta is a member of the NHA.

With the beginning of March, we are gearing up for the 2023 NHA Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day—the first to be held in person since 2020. We have much to celebrate in looking back at the past year, including the largest yearly increase for the NEH ever and the humanities community’s robust advocacy that made the increase possible. At the same time, we are cognizant that we confront a more challenging landscape this year given the split congress and that therefore rallying advocates from across the country and cultivating bipartisan support for federal funding for the humanities remains absolutely essential.

In addition to the largest yearly increase for the NEH, bringing its budget to $207 million for FY 2023, the final appropriations omnibus bill passed in mid-December contained several other wins for our funding priorities.

  • Title VI received $75.4 million, an increase of $3.5 million, and Fulbright-Hays received $10.3 million, an increase of half a million dollars.
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services received $294.8 million, an increase of $26.8 million.
  • The National Archives and Records Administration received $427.52 million, an $39.21 million increase. And its grant-giving arm, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission received $9.5 million, a $2.5 million increase.

For a complete overview of the final funding level for all of our policy priorities, please see our funding chart.

These wins were possible because of strong, year-round advocacy by the humanities community. And none of these successes would be possible without the support of scholarly societies such as Sigma Tau Delta. For example, thanks to their ability to mobilize their members, we were able to recruit advocates from all 50 states and Puerto Rico to participate in our 2022 Humanities Advocacy Day, which kicked off our advocacy for these FY 23 wins.

Now as we turn our attention toward FY 24 appropriations, it is crucial that we focus on cultivating strong bipartisan support given the realities of a split Congress. While we are optimistic that we can build on our past success cultivating bipartisan support—even when the Trump administration sought to defund the NEH year after year, a Republican controlled Congress passed increases for the NEH—cultivating this support will take continuous effort.  And over the past year, we have been hard at work to ensure that bipartisan support remains robust.

In an effort to engage Members of Congress beyond Humanities Advocacy Day, we held a virtual briefing in July to discuss the many ways the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) supports Indigenous American languages including the preservation of Native languages and lifeways through grants to study and document endangered languages and make language resources accessible to tribal members. Staffers heard directly from three NEH grantees about the profound impact that NEH funding has had on their work in language preservation and revitalization.

In October, we partnered with Oklahoma Humanities to bring local humanities leaders, policymakers, and congressional staff together to discuss the impact of federal funding on Oklahoma communities. The event was attended by representatives from the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, the University of Tulsa, Northeastern State University, and Oklahoma Christian University, in addition to leaders of public humanities organizations such as the Philbrook Museum, the Oklahoma Museums Association, Thick Descriptions, and the First Americans Museum. In discussion, speakers highlighted the role Oklahoma institutions play in connecting the public with groundbreaking humanities research and providing opportunities for discussion, connection, and education throughout the state—as well as the role federal dollars play in supporting high-impact humanities work. Following the conversation, the group took a private tour of the Oklahoma Museum of Art’s groundbreaking exhibition, Kiarostami: Beyond the Frame, which was supported by an Oklahoma Humanities grant.

We have also secured new, bipartisan leadership for the Congressional Humanities Caucus. With the retirement of Rep. David Price (D-NC-04), we not only needed to secure a Republican co-chair, a position that has been vacant since May 2021, but also needed to secure a new Democratic co-chair to ensure that the caucus would continue on after Rep. Price’s retirement. Working in collaboration with the Federation of State Humanities Councils, we were able to bring on Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-01) as the new Democratic co-chair of the caucus last November. And just last month, we finally secured a Republican co-chair, Rep. Mike Carey (R-OH-15). We are so pleased to once again have bipartisan leadership, especially now that Republicans control the House. With Members from both sides of the aisle leading the Congressional Humanities Caucus, we are able to show all Members of Congress that federally funded humanities programs have bipartisan support.

Identifying Republican champions for the National Archives and Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs has also been of paramount importance. In March 2022, Rep. Don Young (R-AK-AL) died suddenly—he had been a strong champion of both causes and led yearly letters on their behalf, asking other Members of Congress to sign on. With his passing, we needed to find new Republican leadership on these issues and new sponsors for these letters. Rep. Young Kim (R-CA-40) took up the mantle for the Title VI letter last year, and we are confident that she will do so again this year. And we are currently in conversation with several Republican offices to secure new leadership on the National Archives letter.

While all of these are positive steps forward, it remains crucial that we gather together once again on Humanities Advocacy Day to meet with Members of Congress and their staff in person and work to ensure bipartisan support for federally funded humanities programs. While many anticipate that increases in domestic spending will be hard to come by, we are confident that we can impress upon Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle the importance of the humanities and why it is critical to continue robustly funding these programs.

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