Canton Repository

March 31, 2006

Locals pursue federal dollars in D.C.

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - Two Stark County residents came to Congress on Thursday to promote federal support for local museums and after-school programs.

Christine Fowler Shearer, director of the Massillon Museum, and Matthew Horning, director of an after-school program at Alliance Middle School, testified before an appropriations subcommittee chaired by Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township.

The two were tapped by national organizations in the belief that their messages would be more persuasive if delivered by constituents of Regula, a veteran lawmaker who plays a key role in allocating federal spending on health care, education initiatives and job training.

Shearer, representing the American Association of Museums, urged Congress to support President Bush’s request for $41 million for museum grants and assistance in 2007, a more than $4 million increase over 2006.

“Funding ... is a key ingredient in ensuring our nation’s museums have the capacity to continue providing the public with learning experiences that help them understand the world around them and to continue caring for the public collections,” she said.

Shearer said the 73-year-old Massillon Museum has benefited from three grants totaling almost $50,000 in the past several years. The last grant paid for an educational program. The museum is awaiting word on another grant it is seeking to finance an assessment of its conservation practices.

Federal funding makes up a small portion of the museum’s $500,000 budget, Shearer said. Three-quarters of the funding comes from a city tax, while state and federal grants, local foundations and fundraising provide the balance.

At the end of Shearer’s testimony, Regula noted that Bush’s proposed 2007 budget modestly favors museums while cutting overall nondefense spending.

“The president’s budget gives you an additional $15 million, which is one of the few places where there’s any increase,” he said, referring to the combined $262 million proposed for museums and libraries in 2007. In 2006, the figure allocated was $247 million.

“So I’m sure you’re happy with the president’s budget,” Regula added.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., a frequent critic of domestic spending cuts advocated by Bush and many Republicans, chimed in: “Well, it’s a miracle.”

“There aren’t many of these miracles in that entire budget,” Regula added.

Horning, an Alliance native, urged Congress to increase funding for after-school programs beyond the $981 million that Bush has proposed for 2007. Bush’s allocation for the program would freeze next year’s funding at current levels.

Horning was representing the Afterschool Alliance, an organization that lobbies for federal support for after-school programs.

Testifying before Rep. Anne Northup, R-Ky., a member of the panel who filled in after Regula stepped out of the hearing room, Horning used the example of a student he identified only as “David” to demonstrate the value of the programs.

He said the student had a history of violence but experienced a dramatic change after attending the after-school program, which is held Monday through Thursday at Alliance Middle School.

“David’s mom said that just knowing he had extra time after school to get his work done and get his questions answered took such a weight off David’s shoulders that he is now excited about coming to school,” Horning said.

After-school programs include tutoring, field trips and other activities.

Horning said if Congress does not increase funding for after-school programs, the Alliance program could be in jeopardy after its five-year funding ends next year.

“Double Amen on your message,” Obey said when Horning finished.