History Day in WA is on the chopping block

Dear Social Studies Teacher,

I write as the chair of the Washington State Historical Society’s Advisory Committee for National History Day in Washington State.  Please pardon the duplication if you have received this same message from another source.

First, the background:  We all know in general terms that our state legislature will be having a very difficult time devising a balanced budget for the coming biennium.  We probably also are aware that many state agencies have been expected to identify the line items they would cut to reduce their 2015-2017 budgets by 15%.  

Our sponsor for National History Day in the State of Washington, the Washington State Historical Society (WSHS) is one of those agencies.  WSHS has identified closure of the State Capital Museum and Outreach Center in Olympia and cancellation of support for all the programs housed there as part of that 15%.  One of those programs is History Day.  See the “Decision Package” for the exact language.  It is listed as PL A0 on pages 15 through 18 of TAB C here:  http://ofm.wa.gov/budget/decisionpackages/1517/390.pdf.

The somewhat good news is that History Day support has been identified as the first on the list of items that WSHS would restore if WSHS is not required to cut the full 15%. That is listed on pages 22 through 24 in TAB C as PL N0.

 What can we do to keep the budget axe from falling on 1 July 2015?

Second, the Ask:  The Legislature is in session.  The time to act is NOW.  As a matter of some urgency, please urge your representatives and senators in the state legislature to work to maintain funding for WSHS and its support for National History Day in Washington State.  The more personal the contact, the better.  A personal letter is said to garner more attention than an email or a message sent via a legislator’s website or the Legislative Hotline.  Find your legislator’s information at http://leg.wa.gov.

Third:  Expand the circle of concerned History Day supporters who contact their legislators.   Review your list of contacts to identify those who support the study of history, the education of young people, and, of course, those who specifically support History Day.  Regional coordinators, such as myself, should be asking History Day teachers, History Day judges, former History Day parents and History Day students to join in sending letters to their legislators.  Some of the most passionate supporters of History Day are the teachers who can describe the impact of their work with students and explain what makes their extra effort so worth while.  Perhaps even more passionate are the students and their parents who can offer very specific testimony on the value of the History Day experience.  Judges often have memories of students and entries that especially impressed them.

Fourth:  If the budget cut for WSHS is as severe as planned, the National History Day affiliate in this state disappears.  There is no more appropriate or capable potential sponsor with a mission to promote preservation and appreciation of our history and no likely future sponsor to support History Day.  Losing WSHS funding for History Day means we lose our state coordinator, his assistant, his office, the email address, the History Day website, the ability to offer workshops to teachers.  Gone also would be the state contest along with the opportunity to participate in the national contest.  Gone would be support for the many volunteers throughout the state who work with teachers and students as they develop the skills needed for success in their lives along with appreciation and understanding of our history.

The time to act is NOW.  The more than 6,000 students who complete History Day research projects each year need your help.


Randy Schnabel


North Puget Sound Regional History Day

Posted on February 4, 2015 .