Publication Date

March 1, 2001

Perspectives Section


$50 Million for History Education

In its last order of business, the 106th Congress passed the massive Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L.106-554), and then adjourned sine die on December 15. Included in the $634 billion, 10-inch-thick funding package is a one-line-long $50 million history education earmark (see Congressional Record, December 15, 2000, H-12111) that was tacked on as an amendment to the $108.9 billion Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill (H.R. 4577).

The history of how this funding came about is worth noting. On June 27, 2000, Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), together with Representatives Thomas E. Petri (R-Wisc.) and George Miller (D-Calif.), unveiled a congressional Concurrent Resolution (S. Con. Res. 129; H. Con. Res. 366) designed to draw attention to what Congressman Petri characterized as “the troubling historical illiteracy of our next generation of leaders.” Their resolution was based on the findings contained in Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century, a report released by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). According to the ACTA report, at 78 percent of the institutions surveyed, students are not required to take any history at all and it was possible for students to graduate from all the top colleges without taking a single course in American history. The congressional resolution, therefore, expressed “the sense of Congress regarding the importance and value of United States history.” It called upon boards of trustees, college administrators, and state officials to strengthen American history requirements in the nation’s schools, colleges, and universities.

As a follow-up, on June 30, Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) then offered an amendment (no. 3731) to the Senate version of the fiscal 2001 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriation bill (H.R. 4577) . His one-line amendment (quickly handwritten by Senator Byrd while sitting at his desk on the Senate floor) sought to provide $50 million to the secretary of education to award grants to states “to develop, implement, and strengthen programs that teach American history (not social studies) as a separate subject within school curricula.” The grant money was earmarked for states to support the development of history programs in secondary schools. According to Senate sources, however, the amendment is written broadly enough to give the secretary of education discretion to use funds for the support of postsecondary history education programs as well.

The amendment was approved by a 98-0 margin in the Senate and was supported by the Clinton Administration. However, because there was no similar language in the House version of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Bill, funding was not assured. The amendment was addressed by conferees (appointed on July 20) when they met to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill. A letter signed by the executive directors of the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History was sent to all the conferees expressing the support of the historical community for the amendment.

Ultimately, the conferees adopted the Byrd Amendment, but for months the conference report was held victim to legislative maneuvering—the timing of its release was (according to one staffer) to be “a political decision.” Only when the final budget agreement was reached was the historical community assured that funding would be forthcoming.

After the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act was enacted, the conference report was issued. The report states the intent of Congress for the expenditure of the funds though it is not necessarily binding on the secretary of education. The reference (in its entirety) reads:

The conferees recognize the need to promote the study of American history in our nation’s schools, and therefore, have also included $50,000,000 for a new demonstration program focusing on the instruction of American history in elementary and secondary education. Under this program, the Secretary of Education will award grants to local educational agencies (LEAs), and in turn, the LEAs will make awards to schools that are teaching American history as a separate subject within school curricula (not as a part of a social studies course). Grant awards are designed to augment the quality of American history instruction and to provide professional development activities and teacher education in the area of American history.

Representatives of the historical community have already met with Department of Education officials about the expenditure of the funds and discussions are currently continuing with congressional and education department officials.

Jamestown Commission Legislation Enacted

On December 23, 2000, President Clinton signed into law legislation (P.L.106-565) creating a federal commission to raise national awareness about the first permanent English settlement in North America. The Jamestown Commission is an integral part of plans being developed by the National Park Service (NPS), the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, and the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation to create a unique partnership that combines research, planning, fundraising, and construction. Although the Jamestown celebration is still seven years away, the enactment of this legislation will facilitate planning.

New Committee Assignments for Familiar Faces in the 107th Congress

The 107th Congress convened on January 3, 2001, and attended to a variety of housekeeping tasks, including making new committee assignments. Of particular interest to the historical/ archival community are the selections for the appropriations subcommittees such as Interior, Labor-HHS-Education, and several authorizing committees in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) will chair the House Appropriations Committee with Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) chairing the powerful Committee on Ways and Means. Rep. Joe Skeen (R-N.M.) replaces Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) as chair of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee; Regula becomes the new chair of the Labor-HHS-Education appropriation subcommittee. Regula is viewed as a moderate who is supportive of research. Other committee assignments are: Education and Workforce, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio); Government Reform, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.); and Select Intelligence, Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.). Boehner plans to “play a pivotal role” in advancing President Bush’s education proposals. Rep. James Hansen (R-Utah) will chair the House Resources Committee, which (among other charges) has authority over national parks and historic preservation. Hansen has vowed to work toward dismantling a number of President Clinton’s environmental initiatives at the earliest possible date. Of particular concern to Hansen is the 1906 Antiquities Act that empowers the president to designate (and thereby preserve) public lands as national monuments. Hansen is expected to work well with Interior Secretary Gale Norton; they share similar views on a number of issues.

Variety of Bills Introduced in the New Congress

As the 107th Congress got underway, a plethora of bills were introduced. On January 6 alone, more than 250 bills and concurrent resolutions were dropped in the bill hopper, including several of interest to the historical/ archival community.

Rep. Douglas K. Bereuter (R-Nebr.) introduced H.R. 37—legislation that authorizes suitability/feasibility studies of four possible additions to the National Historic Trails System. Areas to be assessed include several routes related to the Oregon National Historic Trail, a 20- mile segment in Kansas considered appropriate for possible addition to the Pony Express and California National Historic Trail (NHT), a variety of routes in the Missouri Valley related to the California NHT, and several routes associated with the Mormon Pioneer NHT.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and a half-dozen cosponsors have introduced H.R. 40—legislation entitled “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.” The legislation is designed to establish a seven-member commission to study the institution of slavery and make recommendations to Congress on appropriate remedies for de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African Americans. Among their other charges, the commission would determine whether compensation to the descendants of African slaves is warranted. The legislation was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary for consideration.

Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) reintroduced a bill H.R. 107-legislation designed to study and identify sites and resources and to recommend alternatives for commemorating and interpreting the Cold War. Hefley introduced a similar (but not identical) bill late in the 106th Congress but no action was taken on it. The new legislation directs the secretary of the interior (operating through the National Park Service) to inventory sites and resources associated with the Cold War. In preparing the study, NPS historians would be required to review studies completed by the Department of Defense, surveys conducted by state historic preservation offices, and to review other studies currently underway. The secretary would also be required to consult with the public and “scholarly and other interested organizations and individuals.” H.R. 107 includes a new section not present in the 106th Congress version—the creation of a nine-member Cold War Advisory Committee that is charged to consult and advise the secretary of the interior.

The thrust of the study currently focuses on defense- and strategy-related sites. It is expected that during congressional hearings witnesses may seek to expand the scope of the study to include civilian-related and other nonmilitary sites associated with the Cold War. Once the study is finished, the legislation mandates publication of an interpretive handbook based on the assessment’s findings. The bill authorizes $200,000 to be appropriated for carrying out the provisions of the act.

Finally, Rep. William J. Pascrell (D-N.J.) has introduced H.R. 146-legislation only a few lines long-that seeks to authorize a study of the Great Falls Historic District in Paterson, New Jersey, as a unit of the National Park System.

All of these bills have been referred to various committees for action during this legislative session. While at this writing none of these House bills have had companion bills introduced in the Senate because they were introduced so early on in this congressional session, the likelihood of them receiving a hearing in the next few months is quite high.

Clinton Presidential Papers Moved to Arkansas

The physical legacy of President William Jefferson Clinton’s eight-year term of office—some 835 tons of material (which would fill an estimated 50 tractor-trailers), including 77 million pages of documents consisting of such items as policy memoranda, speech drafts, studies and reports, e-mail and other communications, some 1.85 million photographs, and over 75,000 gifts from John Q. Public and foreign dignitaries—were transported on January 13, 2001, aboard a C-5 (the military’s largest transport aircraft) to a temporary storage facility, a former Oldsmobile dealership in Little Rock, Arkansas, the future host city for the Clinton Presidential Library. In accordance with provisions of the Presidential Records Act of 1978, at 12:01 p .m. on January 20, all this material became public property, controlled and administered by the National Archives. A 27-acre site in Little Rock has been selected as the future site for the Clinton Presidential Library. A private foundation is currently raising the $100 million needed to build the museum and library where the documentary records will ultimately be made available to the public. No president has accumulated so large a legacy—the nearest historical contender is the two-term administration of Ronald Reagan, which produced some 50 million documents. The collection will be closed for five years while National Archives curators and archivists organize and prepare the materials for researchers. In the meantime, however, with a click of a mouse, more than 20,200 Clinton-era White House documents—speeches, releases, briefings, photos—may be accessed on a National Archives-created web site:

State Department Historical Advisory Committee Issues Annual Report

On December 13, 2000, the State Department Historical Advisory Committee issued its annual “Report of the Advisory Committee on Historic Diplomatic Documentation” for the year 2000. The report outlines ongoing efforts to redesign and modernize the Foreign Relations of the United States series, discusses the future of the series, and raises access concerns relating to various agency records, including the Library of Congress (Henry Kissinger papers). The report also laments that the State Department history division has experienced “a serious shortage of sufficient staff’ but happily states that 14 new positions have recently been authorized.

Most importantly, the report states that the CIA and the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board have both exempted entire categories of documents from classification review including the CIA’s President’s Daily Briefs: “The Committee is gravely concerned that these blanket denials will set a dangerous precedent and compromise the historical record.” The report is posted at

New Section 106 Regulations

On January 11, 2001, new regulations regarding Section 106 review” Protection of Historic Properties” (36 CFR Part 800)-went into effect. The new regulations are posted at https://www To help understand them, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has issued a brochure entitled “Protecting Historic Properties: A Citizen’s Guide to Section 106 Review.” The brochure is designed to provide the general public with the information necessary to successfully initiate and conclude the Section 106 process, and ensure that federal agencies take historic properties into account when planning and executing their undertakings. For additional information, contact Sharon S. Conway at (202) 606-8503.

Jefferson Day Event Date Set

The National Humanities Alliance (NHA) has announced the preliminary program for Jefferson Day 2001. The event, which will take place March 26-27 in Washington D.C., is an important opportunity for scholars and others interested in the humanities to engage in the political process. Playwright Arthur Miller, author of such notable works as The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, has been selected as the 2001 Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities. He will deliver the lecture on March 26. The program along with online registration is available through the NHA web site at: http:/ /

For more information about the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History and for an electronic archive of the regular “Washington Update,” visit the NCC web site.

Bruce Craig is the director of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History.

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