Once again, Gov. Dannel Malloy and the legislature are looking to close a budget gap by choosing among dozens of worthy, state-supported programs and services, and Connecticut Humanities is  – once again — in a fight for its fiscal life.

So why should you care?

If you are troubled by recent events at college campuses in Connecticut, Missouri and elsewhere; if you believe government often doesn’t get a fair return on invested tax dollars; if you are perplexed by an inability to prepare students to fill open, high paying manufacturing jobs; if you are concerned about literacy rates and little knowledge of civics; perceive a decline in public civility; or worry about new ethical, religious or cultural questions raised by advancements in medicine and technology; you should care about the future of Connecticut Humanities.

Our program funding supports hundreds of initiatives, in all 169 Connecticut communities, which woven together help to create the cultural fabric of our state. Our financial resources and staff create reading programs at your child’s school, support services at your local library, promote learning through cultural exchange, bring global exhibits to museums in your area, and provide skills training for those who might otherwise be left behind by the pace of change.

Connecticut Humanities funding enables us to share new ideas, discuss important issues, experience artistic genius, and apply important lessons from thinkers and events of the past.  These are all critical components of Connecticut’s distinctive past and future promise.

Funding for Connecticut Humanities drives one of our state’s most important and perhaps most overlooked local stimulus programs.

In the last two years alone, Connecticut Humanities has awarded more than $2 million in grants to hundreds of organizations and programs statewide. Our funding criteria requires that every dollar we invest be matched by corporate, foundation or federal dollars, or by approved in-kind services. Over 20 years, we’ve averaged three matching dollars for every dollar granted. That amounts to more than $54 million in matching money generated and invested for humanities programs in communities throughout Connecticut. Not many programs equal that rate of return.

Funding for Connecticut Humanities represents an insignificant portion of the state’s budget. As such, cutting it would have a minuscule impact on the current fiscal situation.  But by leveraging state support, Connecticut Humanities’ grants allow libraries, museums, historical societies and heritage organizations to fund a wide variety of exhibits, performances, seminars and speakers. Over the past two years, these events attracted more than a million visitors, contributing significantly to Connecticut’s critical tourism industry.

Through educational initiatives like Poetry Out Loud, Connecticut History Day and the newly-launched Teach It website, Connecticut Humanities is fully immersed in the state’s public and private schools.

These programs are instrumental in developing an appreciation for the humanities among school-aged children across the state. These interactive initiatives encourage students to be engaged participants, not just passive learners. The programs supported by Connecticut Humanities inspire and motivate children to dig deeper into their history and culture to get a better understanding of the connections they share with each other and their communities.

There is a great deal of focus these days on STEM education. There can be no questioning the importance of teaching a strong curriculum based on science, technology, engineering and math. But with advancements in science and technology come new questions and new responsibilities to manage these resources for the common good. Even a complete mastery of technical skills cannot assure long-term success without the analysis, critical thinking, perspective and communication skills that can only be gained through an appreciation and understanding of the humanities.

The highly-competitive Connecticut Humanities’ grants, combined with local matching contributions, enable programs that encourage people to engage with each other, share their stories and express their ideas and passions. This investment in civic engagement is a foundation for the unique and vibrant culture that makes our cities and towns attractive places to live and work.  Whether the criteria be economic, or cultural, the conclusion is the same: Connecticut Humanities is critical to the advancement of a civil, educated, culturally rich and harmonious Connecticut.

I hope you agree, and will let your state lawmaker know before any votes are cast in an upcoming special session.

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