Publication Date

May 1, 1996

Billington Testifies on Fiscal 1997 Budget for Library of Congress

On March 5 James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, testified before the House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations, chaired by Rep. Ron Packard (R-Calif.). Other members of the subcommittee present at the hearing were Vic Fazio (D-Calif.), ranking minority member Dan Miller (R-Fla.), and Charles Taylor (R-N.C.). In requesting a budget of $373 million, a 5.8 percent increase over the fiscal 1996 budget, Billington stressed that the library is fundamentally different from any other institution in the legislative branch in that it serves not only the Congress but the entire nation. Billington stressed that "knowledge and information are now the most important commodities of our age-and the largest supply in world history is here in the Library of Congress." He also noted that the library has become a world leader in providing high-quality content for the Internet. '

Packard noted in his opening remarks that the library was the only legislative branch agency that did not have a major decrease last year and indicated that some reductions should be expected this year. In the question- and-answer portion of the hearing, the members of the subcommittee expressed strong support for the library. Fazio asked questions about the status of the Copyright Office and about exhibit policy. On the matter of the exhibit Back of the Big House: The Cultural Landscape if the Plantation, Billington said that things should have been handled differently. He explained that because Back if the Big House was a traveling exhibit and had not originally been scheduled to be at the library, not all the appropriate steps had been taken. On the planned exhibit on Freud, he stressed that it had not been canceled, just postponed, and that it is scheduled to open in 1998. Fazio noted that there is a need to deal with controversy without bowing to public pressure.

Several members had questions about the degree to which the library's Internet information services overlapped with those of the Government Printing Office's (GPO) Access on-line services. Packard requested that the two agencies work closely together to integrate their programs because there is an appearance of duplication and competition. In discussing the GPO plan to shift the federal deposition library program to an electronic base in two years, Billington pointed out that this will create problems with the current international exchange of material. Few of the library's foreign partners, he noted, will be able to accept the library's electronic documents and thus will not provide their paper documents, which enrich the library's collection.

Update on NEH

On March 6 Sheldon Hackney, the Ii 'f of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of Interior and Related Agencies, chaired by Ralph Regula (R-Ohio). Hackney urged the committee to fund the NEH at the level of $136 million, the amount requested by the administration. Four other members of the subcommittee attended the hearing. They were Sidney Yates (D-Ill.), the ranking minority member; Joe Skeen (R-N.Mex.); George Nethercutt (R-Wash.); and David Skaggs (D-Colo.).

While the tone of the hearing was in many ways positive, there was an underlying assumption that the subcommittee will have less money this year than it did last year to fund the many programs under its jurisdiction. Regula raised the issue of the NER's lack of authorization and noted that fiscal 19% appropriations legislation had called for the phasing out of the NER in three years, which is two years from now.

Hackney focused in his testimony on how this year's cut of about $60 million-approximately a 40 percent decrease-had resulted in a significant loss of quality programs. He specifically cited the cuts in the brittle-books program, the program that is microfilming American newspapers, the documentary editions projects, as well as educational and public programs. The $136 million recommended by the president would provide partial restoration to the NER budget, which is $110 million in this year's Interior Appropriations Bill—which has not yet passed.

In the question-and-answer period there were questions about the "national conversation" initiative, and Hackney responded with a large notebook of very positive press clippings from around the country. There were no questions about the NEH's role in funding the National History Standards. All of the members asked questions that indicated an understanding of and appreciation for much of the NEH's work, particularly its work in the area of preserving brittle books.

On March 7 the House Interior and Related Agencies Subcommittee held a hearing for outside witnesses who wished to testify on any of the many programs funded by the Interior Subcommittee. Of the almost 50 witnesses, 5 spoke on behalf of the NEH. They were Alexander Hayes, a member of the board of the Ohio Humanities Council, who spoke for the Federation of State Humanities Councils; Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef of the University of California; Roderick French, professor of philosophy at George Washington University, who testified for the National Humanities Alliance; , director of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History, who testified for the NCC; and Edward Able, head of the American Association of Museums, who testified on behalf of the Institute of Museum Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the NER.

The NCC testimony urged adoption of the president's request of $136 million, noting that the NER has experienced a cut of approximately 40 percent this year from last year's levels and that $136 million was still 20 percent less than the fiscal 1995 level of $172 million. Identifying support of scholarly research in the humanities and the dissemination of that knowledge as the two core functions of the NEH, the NCC testimony drew on an analogy between research in the sciences and the humanities. In contrast to research in the biological and physical sciences, scholarship in the humanities does not generally require expensive instruments and laboratories. But humanities scholarship does require research tools. The development of the research tools requires national collaboration and extensive funding. For the past three decades the NER has played a crucial role in developing these humanities research tools, tools such as historical documentary editions, preservation of 19th-century newspapers, the preservation of brittle books, and bibliographic resources such as the Guide to Historical Literature.

In the concluding portion of the testimony, the NCC spoke to two issues that emerged in the March 5 hearing when the subcommittee heard from Sheldon Hackney. These issues were the possibility of shifting NEH funding to state block grants and the need to secure reauthorization legislation for the NEH. On block grants, the NCC noted that while the state humanities councils are efficient and effective managers of grant funds, they are not state agencies. Furthermore, they are not in a position to develop expensive and complex research tools, such as the funding of documentary editions or the preservation of brittle books. The two greatest concerns about shifting to block grants are (1) that the major national projects could not be supported by a single state and (2) that the national peer-review system through which the NEH gives its seal of approval-that is then used to leverage private funds-would be lost

On the question of reauthorization, the subcommittee has set a goal of appropriating funds only for those programs that have been authorized. It appears at this point that there will be no authorization legislation passed prior to the markup and vote on the Interior Appropriations Bill. Thus the NCC urged the subcommittee to include reauthorization language in the appropriations bill. While this is not the preferred route for reauthorization, it is the way that authorization for the NEH has been accomplished in the past.

The NEH recently made available the following breakdown of the $136 million recommended by the president: $30.15 million for federal-state partnerships; $21 million for preservation and access; $19.5 million for public and enterprise programs; $30 million for research and education; $11.5 million for challenge grant funds; $6.25 million for treasury funds; and $17.6 million for administrative funds. (For more details about the NEH budget, see pp. 41-42 of this issue of Perspectives.)

Istook Seeks New Disclosure Requirements for Nonprofits

On March 7 the House passed by a narrow vote an amendment to the continuing resolution that was introduced by Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.). This amendment calls for the addition of extensive recordkeeping requirements for nonprofit organizations that receive federal grants. Since the recent passage of the Lobby Disclosure Act, all nonprofit organizations that lobby are already required to publicly disclose lobbying expenditures. Many see these new requirements as unnecessary government red tape. Furthermore, the amendment does not apply to federal contracts, which account for nearly eight times the amount of money the federal government spends on grants.

This continuing resolution, often called the Omnibus Spending Bill, is intended to provide funding until September 30, the end of the fiscal year, for those agencies for which fiscal 1996 appropriations bills have not been passed. Unable to reach agreement on a long-term continuing resolution, Congress has passed and the president has signed numerous stop-gap spending measures. The Senate version of the Omnibus Spending Bill does not include any Istook-type language. A conference committee will decide whether to include the Istook amendment in the compromise bill.

President's Fiscal 1997 Request for the National Archives and the NHPRC

The president has requested $196.964 million in fiscal 1997 for the National Archives. This is a small reduction from this year's level of$199.925 million. Under this proposed budget, operating expenses would remain at basically the same level. There were several one-time additions to last year's budget-such as the $4.5 million that Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Nebr.) sponsored to increase electronic access and $1.2 million for repairs at the Johnson Presidential library-which account for the lower 1997 figure. The president has requested $4 million in fiscal 1997 for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). It is currently funded at $5 million.

President's Budget Recommendations for Other Cultural Agencies

The president has requested $23 million in fiscal 1997 for the Institute of Museum Services OMS). The fiscal 1996 level for the IMS is $21 million. In historic preservation, the president has requested $33.29 million for the combined programs of state historic preservation, Indian tribes, and historically black colleges. This is basically level funding for these historic preservation programs. There is an increase in the president's request for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The trust is funded this year at $3.5 million, and the request for fiscal 1997 is $5 million, which is still below the fiscal 1995 level of $7 million. Funding for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation is $2.5 million, which is level funding. For the Smithsonian, the request is $384 million, an increase from the fiscal 1995 level of $363 million. The Fulbright Scholarly Exchange Program is at $111 million in the president's budget-this is compared with $117 million in fiscal 1995 and $96 million this year. For the Fulbright Hays Program, which focuses on area studies, the president is requesting the same level in fiscal 1997 as the program had in fiscal 1995.

There are few indications that the above budget recommendations will be passed. However, these budget amounts do indicate the support of the president for cultural programs and provide a beginning point for debate over the fiscal 1997 budgets for these programs.

CIA's Historical Review Panel Releases Report

On February 5 the newly constituted Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Historical Review Panel met for the first time. On March 6 John Lewis Gaddis, a member of the panel and a professor of history at Ohio University who is on leave this year at the Woodrow Wilson Center, sent to John Deutch, the director of the CIA, a report summarizing the results of the meeting. The report, which lays out a number of recommendations regarding declassification of materials, stated, "First priority within such a plan should go to transferring early CIA records to the National Archives and making them available to researchers. The panel feels strongly that, although commendable in themselves, the history staff's publications as well as its cooperation with the Department of State's Foreign Relations series do not substitute for the declassification and opening of the agency's records in bulk form and in substantial quantity, so that nongovernment scholars will be in a position to make their own judgments about representativeness and relative significance." The panel reaffirmed the recommendations of the CIA's predecessor historical review panel, which had called for the declassification of CIA records according to the principles of "top down," referring to high-level policy records, and "oldest first."

Revised History Standards Released

On April 3 UCLA's National Center for History in the Schools released the revised edition of the voluntary standards for teaching history from kindergarten through grade 12. The first draft of the history standards, which came out over a year ago, faced criticism that focused primarily on the teaching examples and not on the standard themselves. The new standards include refinement of the broad guidelines but do not include any sample classroom assignments.

To consider various criticisms of the first draft, the Council for Basic Education (CBE) sponsored two prestigious panels, which held extensive meetings and issued a report on their findings. Over the past several months, the National Center for History in the Schools has revised the standards based on recommendations of the panels. Albert Quie, a former Republican governor and congressman and chair of the U.S. History Review Panel appointed by the CBE, endorsed the revised standards. He stated, ''This version of the history standards represents a tremendous improvement over the way history is taught in America's schools." He further noted that lithe criticism that applied to the first version of the history standards certainly does not apply to the new version, and that should be dear to anyone who reads the document-liberal or conservative."

Christopher Cross, the president of the CBE, gave the revised standards very high marks. "The UCLA National Center for History in the Schools has listened well to the criticism of the earlier documents," he noted, "and has created a new document that will serve schools well as a guide to improving the teaching of U.S. and world history." Echoing this position was Robert Schwartz, the director of the education program for !he Pew Charitable Trust and one of the funders of !he CBE's review process. Schwartz called the revised standards sound, balanced, and of practical value. Diane Ravitch, a noted professional in the field of history education and a critic of the first draft, has also commended the new standards.

National Standards for History: Basic Edition contains all of the standards from the original books with hundreds of minor changes to expand and improve the existing material. As with the voluntary standards projects in other subjects, the goal of !he history standards is to serve as background material that teachers and school districts can use to help develop curriculum and create state standards.

An overarching goal in this revision was to retain from the original history standards the principal mission of broadening the content of history in schools and providing a new framework for critical thinking skills. The material encourages students to develop competence in chronological thinking; comprehension, analysis, and interpretation; research; issues analysis; and decision making.

The history standards are available for $15.95 per book, plus $5 shipping and handling for the first book ordered ($1 shipping and handling for additional books; California residents add 8.25 percent tax). Books can be ordered by check, credit card, or purchase order by calling the UCLA Store at (310) 206-0788. Fax orders to (310) 825-0382. E-mail orders should be sent to or mail to UCLA Book Zone, 308 Westwood Plaza, Ackerman Union, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1645.

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