APPROPRIATION UPDATE: $50 MILLION FOR HISTORY EDUCATION
When President Clinton signs into law the omnibus appropriations
bill that provides $108.9 billion for the Departments of Labor,
Health and Human Services and Education, he will be authorizing
a $50 million earmark for history education (see Congressional
Record-House; December 15, 2000; p. H-12111)
The history of how this amendment came about is worth noting.
On June 27, Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CONN), Slade Gorton (R-WA)
together with Representatives Thomas E. Petri (R-WIS) and George
Miller (D-CA) 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 that it is was possible for students to graduate from 100
percent of the top colleges without taking a single course in
American history. The resolution offered by the Congressmen, 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
As a follow-up to the resolution, on June 30, Senator Robert
Byrd (D-WV) then offered an amendment (no. 3731) to the Senate
version of the FY 2001 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
appropriation bill (H.R. 4577). His one-line amendment (actually
hand-written by 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 post-secondary
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 passed version of the
Labor/H&HS/Education bill, funding was not assured. The amendment
was addressed by conferees when they met to resolve differences
between the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill.
On July 20, conferees were appointed; a letter under the signature
of 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 support for the amendment by the historical community.
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 last week, was the historical community
assured that the funding would be forthcoming.
Representatives of the historical community have already met
with Department of Education officials about the expenditure of
the funds; discussions will continue in the coming weeks.
NCC WASHINGTON UPDATE, Vol. 6, #45, December 21, 2000
by Bruce Craig firstname.lastname@example.org of the National
Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History