A year ago we were reeling from the news. The President’s FY18 federal budget was released to the public. It called for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities. With about 90% of our funding coming from the NEH, we faced the possibility that after 45 years, the WHC could be shut down.
I was extremely worried, but I told everyone that it is Congress that has the power of the purse. And I believed that Republican and Democratic members of Congress who have long seen the value of the NEH, and of state humanities councils like the WHC, would stand behind their commitment to public funding of our work. I was confident that the WHC would survive, although I thought it likely that we would see our budget reduced.
To lighten the grim mood at a staff meeting, I joked that if the unimaginable came to pass and we got an increase in federal funds, I would dance with a lampshade on my head. Last week they asked what style of lampshade I had in mind. Congress passed the FY18 budget, and in it is a $3 million increase for the NEH.
We have not yet heard what the NEH increase means for the WHC’s budget, but hope that it might get us back to the amount we received in 2010, after years of cuts. When I was in Washington a few weeks ago to visit with our Congressional delegation, every staff member I met expressed excitement about the WHC’s impact. After all, enriching the lives and sparking the imaginations of people young and old, in every corner of Wisconsin, seems far from controversial.
This year, among most of our members of Congress, public support for the public’s engagement with the humanities turned out not to be controversial either. Thanks for your part in keeping it that way. Now we all need to get to work on advocating for funding in FY19.
We believe that our problems have solutions. And we believe that we can find the knowledge we need – and trust – to solve them. Our series of Beyond the Headlines events are organized with partner organizations in Madison, Wausau, Milwaukee, Superior and Eau Claire to confront some of the state’s most pressing challenges. By bringing key players together face-to-face for conversations, we are all learning how to move forward to build stronger communities.
Learn more about the first Beyond the Headlines event in Madison on April 26th!
Learn more about the Beyond the Headlines events in Wausau starting May 9th!