Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Continuing the Fight for TAH - A Message from the NCHE

What follows is a recent "Action Alert" email from Peter Seibert, Executive Director of the National Council for History Education. The NCHE has been by far the most active professional group in the fight to preserve the Teaching American History program (really you should join the organization). With Seibert's permission I am posting the email here. If you would like to receive these alerts, drop him an email at

Good Morning Advocacy Team,

I will be on vacation from the 6th to the 17th so I wanted to quickly touch base with everyone about key advocacy efforts both on-going as well as thinking strategically into the future.

As we noted in the last email, our focus is upon the 2012 budget as this is really where the battle needs to be fought. If we lose the budget battle and TAH is defunded then our consolidation concerns become a moot point, as the program will no longer exist. In the month of July, a couple of critical things will be occurring:
  • On July 26 will begin the House mark-up of the budget. Realistically speaking, we know that this is a tough one for us. Rep. Duncan Hunter’s bill eliminating TAH will probably pass (although I still think it is going nowhere in the Senate or with the White House). In support of that, budget cutters have eliminated all TAH funding from the proposed House budget. Thus, our energies (thinking strategically) need to be about targeting Democrats and moderate Republicans in the House to (a) encourage them to raise the flag of funding TAH as part of this mark-up (b) laying the groundwork for TAH to be put back into the budget when the House and Senate eventually meet in conference. Our target list is as follows:
    • Reps Andrews, Holt and Payne in New Jersey
    • Rep Rehberg in Montana
    • Rep. Kingston in Georgia
    • Rep. Simpson in Idaho
We have folks in all of these states working on these people right now.
  •  The Senate will probably begin their budget considerations this fall, after their recess in August, so we are continuing to look at key members on both sides of the aisle as we lay the foundation for that discussion. Over the last two weeks, NCHE partisans and I have met with staffers in Senators Rockefeller, Wicker and Cochran’s offices to discuss this matter. Partisans have also met with other Senators on both the HELP and Appropriations committees. Particularly vital was the effort that secured a letter from Senator Mary Landrieu (LA) to Senator Harkin (Chair of the HELP Committee) asking for $46 million for TAH and new grants to be made in 2012.
  • Senator Harkin’s staff continues to announce that they will be bringing forward the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by the end of July. We believe that ESEA will contain Secty. Duncan’s recommendation on consolidation of TAH with other PD programs although this is not assured (particularly since a majority of the consolidated programs had their funding eliminated in the 2011CR). We also believe that Sen. Harkin is doing this without any Republican support thereby opening the door for some negotiation on all of this. The introduction of this will cause a big splash no doubt but remember that this is only the beginning. We do not know for sure what the House will be doing, how it all will end in conference and if anyone will have the will to proceed with this considering the debt ceiling, the budget and the forthcoming elections.
  • The House Education and the Workforce Committee is currently looking at a Teacher Accountability Act that will probably deal with PD issues. We understand that since they believe that TAH does not work that they will lump history in with other PD disciplines under Title 2. Further, there is some discussion about funding cuts to Title 2 that would cause additional issues. This may not come up before the fall.
We have a lot ahead of us and much to do! A few rays of sunshine in all of this:
  • The belief is that the budget cutting frenzy of the 2011CR will not be necessarily repeated insofar as the education budget is concerned. Both houses seem to be focused on much bigger issues than the Ed funding stream.
  • We have never run into anyone on the hill who dislikes history. Their issues with TAH are really about issues within the program that can, and probably should be, changed going forward.
  • We are working on providing you with data from our partisans showing accurate and graphic proof of the impact of the program. Stay tuned, as this will be an important tool for us in the fight.
  • We have heard that many House members are feeling the heat at home from their constituents because of the huge number of programs that were cut this year. In particular, the brutal clear-cutting of the forest on the earmark question has come home to roost. We continue to support our friends and colleagues at National History Day and We the People as they fight to get this decision reversed.
Finally, we have to keep fighting. If we lose any one of these fights…it is over. The folks who are receiving this email are working now in 26 states on this issue. Keep it going and lets save TAH. We did it once this year…we can do it again.

Peter S. Seibert
Executive Director
National Council for History Education

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