From the News column of the March 2003 Perspectives

Concern Expressed Over Budget Cuts in New Jersey History Programs

AHA Staff, March 2003

Editor's Note: We print below the text of a letter sent by Arnita A. Jones, executive director of the AHA, Lee Formwalt, executive director of the OAH, and David Berry, executive director of the Community College Humanities Association to the governor of New Jersey whose budget proposals for 2004 include massive cuts for history programs (see story here).

The Honorable James E. McGreevey, Governor
State of New Jersey

Dear Gov. McGreevey,

We write on behalf of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the Community College Humanities Association to express our concern about your proposed elimination of $4.2 million in funding for the New Jersey Historical Commission and its grant programs.

The American Historical Association (AHA) is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1884 and chartered by Congress in 1889 for the promotion of historical studies, the collection and preservation of historical documents and artifacts, and the dissemination of historical research. As the largest historical association in the United States, the AHA serves as the umbrella organization for historians working in every period and geographical area. Among its 15,000 members are teachers in junior and secondary schools, college and university faculty, independent scholars, and historians in museums, historical societies, libraries, archives and all levels of government.

Founded, in 1907, the Organization of American Historians with its 9,000 members is the largest scholarly society devoted to the study of American history. It is dedicated to the promotion of teaching and scholarship about the history of the United States and pursues these goals by encouraging and supporting excellence in historical research, interpretation, and publication: advancing the teaching and practice of American history at all levels and in all settings; and promoting the widest possible access to historical sources and scholarship.

The Community College Humanities Association is a national organization devoted to strengthening the humanities in the nation's 1,200 community colleges. It serves faculty and administrators who reach more than 10 million community college students who take courses in the humanities as a part of their undergraduate curriculum.

We understand that New Jersey, like many other states, expects a substantial shortfall in revenue for the coming fiscal year. However, we believe that efforts to balance the budget by dismantling a nationally recognized cultural resource are shortsighted and in the long run will diminish New Jersey's revenues from cultural tourism. The $4.2 million budget of the New Jersey Historical Commission supports the gathering and protection of irreplaceable historical material and fosters public and education programs that leverage substantial funds from federal and other sources.

The efforts of the Coalition for the Arts, Tourism, Culture and History to promote a referendum that would enact a 3 percent tourism tax to provide a stable and dedicated source of funding for the New Jersey Historical Commission and other cultural activities are a promising start. We urge you to look closely at this and other options that would recognize the enormous contribution that they make to the economic infrastructure of the state and maintain these important activities.

Sincerely,

Arnita Jones
Executive Director,
American Historical Association

Lee Formwalt
Executive Director,
Organization of American Historians

David Berry
Executive Director,
Communiity College Humanities Association