Subscribe to the IHARE Blog

History and the New York State Regents

The New York State Board of Regents has overall responsibility for the history organizations in the state. The Department of Education which charters the museums and historical societies operates under the auspices of the Regents. Its purview includes the Office of Cultural Education: the New York State Archives, the New York State Library, and the New York State Museum where the New York State Historian is based. Most of the press coverage about the Regents concerns education especially such hot-button issues as curriculum and evaluations.

The Regents do not participate in the REDC funding process. It is responsible for the funding programs for archives.

The Regents meet monthly in Albany

January 14 – 15 (Monday and Tuesday)
February 11 – 12 (Monday and Tuesday)
March 11 – 12 (Monday and Tuesday)
April 8 – 9 (Monday and Tuesday)
May 6 – 7 (Monday and Tuesday)
June 3 – 4 (Monday and Tuesday)
July 15 – 16 (Monday and Tuesday)
August (Recess)
September 9 – 10 (Monday and Tuesday)
October 7 – 8 (Monday and Tuesday)
November 4 – 5 (Monday and Tuesday)
December 9 – 10 (Monday and Tuesday)

The Meeting Webcast link is available one-half hour prior to the scheduled start of the meeting. The January meeting is available at I do not know if the public can attend these meetings in person.

For the history community, the most relevant part of the Regents meetings are from the Cultural Education committee. That committee supervises archives, libraries, and museums in the state. Here are the portions of the committee report from the January meeting. The most critical item was the Governor’s veto of the Museum Education Act that MANY has been lobbying about for a few years now.

Report of Regents Cultural Education Committee to The Board of Regents

Your Committee on Cultural Education had its scheduled meeting on January 14, 2019. Regent Roger Tilles and Regent Judith Johnson, Co-Chairs of the Cultural Education Committee, submitted the following written report. In attendance were committee members: Regent Tilles, Co-Chair, Regent Johnson, Co-Chair, Regent Cea, Regent Cottrell, Regent Ouderkirk and Regent Mead.

Regents, in addition to Cultural Education Committee members, in attendance were: Chancellor Rosa, Regent Cashin, Regent Finn, Regent Hakanson, Regent Reyes, and Regent Mittler. Also in attendance were Commissioner Elia, Executive Deputy Commissioner Berlin, Senior Deputy Commissioner for Educational Policy Jhone Ebert, and Counsel Shannon Tahoe.


Co-Chairs Regent Tilles and Regent Johnson welcomed everyone. Regent Tilles informed the Committee that the Museum Education Act, a Regents legislative priority, was vetoed by the Governor last month. The primary reason cited in the veto message was that the bill should be addressed within the context of the budget. The legislation did not include the $5 million in funding that was requested in the Regents’ legislative priorities. Deputy Commissioner Schaming provided a brief report on Office of Cultural Education news and activities.

Based on a review of the 2018 reports, Schaming typically reports on the activities of the Archives, Library, and Museum each month as appropriate. The big topic for discussion in the January, 2019, meeting was library construction.

State Aid for Library Construction Update

Mary Anne Waltz and Frank Rees from the State Library’s Division of Library Development presented an update on the State Aid for Library Construction program, which has supported over 2,200 public library construction and renovation projects since its inception. In FY 2018-2019, the state budget provided $34 million in capital funds to support State Aid for Library Construction. Funds may support up to 75 percent of approved project costs for broadband installation or construction, renovation, rehabilitation, or site acquisition of public libraries and public library system headquarters.

Chair Mark Schaming submitted the following letter to the Regents.

TO: Cultural Education Committee
FROM: Mark Schaming
SUBJECT:     State Aid for Library Construction Program Update
DATE:             January 3, 2019


Issue for Discussion

State Library staff will present an update on the State Aid for Library Construction program, which has supported over 2,200 public library construction and renovation projects over the past 12 years. The Board will receive a brief overview of this program and its history and an update on plans for the 2019 program and beyond.

Background Information

In FY 2018-2019, the State Budget provided $34 million in capital funds to support State Aid for Library Construction. While the State Aid for Library Construction Program allocation formulas are in statute (Education Law 273-a), the annual funding level is not specified in the law. The funding level is determined annually through an appropriation of capital funds in the State Budget.

State Aid for Library Construction Program capital funds may support up to 75 percent of approved project costs for broadband installation or construction, renovation, rehabilitation, or site acquisition of public libraries and public library system headquarters. The State Library collaborates with the 23 public library systems in administering this program. Each library system ranks the applications from their system area and determines the funding level for each project. Particular attention is given to the service needs of any communities which are isolated, economically disadvantaged.

As previously reported in Did You Know that There Was a Regents Museum Advisory Council? (11/9/17), there is a Regents Museum Advisory Council. In that blog, I reported on its responsibilities as originally presented in 2012 when the council was first proposed. I also provided a list of its current members. In reviewing the online information available from the Regents website in 2018-2019 about the Advisory Council, the primary action involves appointments to fill vacancies. For example in June and December:

Appointments to the Regents Advisory Council on Museums

Members of the Museum Regents Advisory Council offer advice and consultation on issues of policy and service pursuant to the Board’s statutory mandate to operate the State Museum and oversee museums across New York State. The recommended appointments are Meg Ventrudo, Executive Director of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, and Peter Jemison, an accomplished Native American artist, curator, and writer whose artwork is in major collections across the nation, including at the National Museum of the American Indian and the Whitney Museum.

Regents Advisory Council on Museum Appointments

Department staff will present proposed appointments to the Regents Advisory Council on Museums for Board of Regents approval. Members of the Regents Advisory Council on Museums offer advice and consultation on issues of policy and service pursuant to the Board’s statutory mandate to operate the State Museum and oversee museums across New York State. The recommended appointments to the Museum Regents Advisory Council are: David Kahn, Executive Director of the Adirondack Experience The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake and Barbara Hunt McLanahan, Executive Director of the Children’s Museum of the Arts, both for five-year terms through December 31, 2023.

The list of members as of November 29, 2018, is

  • Kate Bennett, President of the Rochester Museum & Science Center
  • Suzanne LeBlanc, President of the Long Island Children’s Museum
  • Sara Pasti, Director of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz
  • Paul S. D’Ambrosio, President and CEO of the Fenimore Art Museum
  • Daniel Slippen, Vice President of Government Relations of the American Museum of Natural History
  • Jan Ramirez, Chief Curator of the National September 11 Memorial Museum
  • Joe Lin-Hill, Deputy Director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
  • Elizabeth Dunbar, Director of the Everson Museum of Art
  • Kris Wetterlund, Director of Education and Interpretation of the Corning Museum of Glass
  • Gretchen Sorin, Director and Distinguished Professor at the Cooperstown Graduate Program for Museum Studies
  • Meg Ventrudo, Executive Director of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
  • Peter Jemison, Native American artist and curator

For 2018, I found two other mentions of the Museum Advisory Council.

November: Regent Tilles indicated the Museum Regents Advisory Council would be meeting later today and the focus will be on P-20 education initiatives.

June: Deputy Commissioner Schaming invited the Regents to attend a Museum Regents Advisory Council meeting on June 12 at 1:30pm. This meeting gathers museum professionals from across the state to discuss best practices and new initiatives.

One might conclude that the Advisory Council meets twice a year in Albany. As to what is recommended by the Advisory Council to the Cultural Education Committee, that is more of a mystery. Therefore I conclude this post as I did in 2017 with the following questions and comments about the Museum Regents Advisory Council.

1. What has the Regents Advisory Council on Museums been doing?
2. How has it discharged its responsibility to effectively communicate with the history community?
3. How has it discharged its responsibility to advocate on behalf of the history community?
4. How has it discharged its responsibility to monitor education policies particularly related to the teaching of local history?
5. Why isn’t there a session at the annual MANY conference set aside for the Regents Advisory Council on Museums to report to the history community?
6. Why isn’t there a representative from the Regents Advisory Council on Museums present at each of the regional meetups conducted by MANY throughout the state?
7. What is the contact information for the history community to use to reach out to the Regents Advisory Council on Museums?

It’s great to know that there is a Regents Advisory Council on Museums but I can’t help but wonder how many people in the history community know that it exists and what it has actually accomplished.

Civics: Should Children Be Prepared To Be Adult Citizens? (Part II)

Could native-born Americans pass this test? (

In the previous post, I raised the issue of the state of civics in education. I examined the situation in some states including Virginia, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. In this post, I wish to return to Connecticut before turning to New York.

The Connecticut High School History Council

At the beginning of this school year in September, the Connecticut High School History Council (CTHSHC) issued a call to high school students. CTHSHC, a program of the Connecticut Public Affairs Network (CPAN), is a statewide student group conceived by Glastonbury High School seniors. It is made up of students from all around the state who share a passion for history and civics and want to create constructive change using their interest. Student participants are required to work together on an annual project related to an issue that has affected the state and its communities both historically and in the present. Students are asked to research the history of the issue at their local historical societies, meet with elected officials and others to learn how to take civic action, and then work together to take that action. CTHSHC decided to focus this school year’s research on: “What aspects of the women’s right movement have affected women’s stance in the political and social sectors of Connecticut?” The kickoff meeting for this school year was held at Connecticut’s Old State House in Hartford. The due date for the submission of the projects is March 1, 2019 so I presume we will hear more about the results of this initiative in the spring, 2019.

On a slightly more historical note, I think it would be interesting to learn where the individual communities stood on the issue of women’s suffrage, soon to be a centennial event.

In the Age of Trump, Civics Courses Make a Comeback By Alina Tugend, New York Times, June 5, 2018

This project bears some similarities to the Connecticut one (above) except it is at a single school system and not as a statewide program. It also is a multiyear project that starts with students in the 9th grade and continues for all four school years which makes it different from most projects. The new initiative is called Original Civic Research and Action. The participants are required “to immerse themselves in the workings of their town of Mamaroneck — just north of New York City — and find a useful solution to an ongoing problem. The project — for which students get no school credit in the first year — is the brainchild of Joseph Liberti, a longtime government and history teacher at the high school.”

And it is emblematic of a renewed nationwide effort to address, at both the high school and college level, issues that have been laid bare over the last few years — a lack of understanding of and trust in most civic institutions, a disconnection from government at all levels and intolerance for those who think and act differently….[Liberti] expected 12 students to sign up. He ended up with 32.

Only nine states and the District of Columbia require a full year of civics education, according to the Center for American Progress; 30 states mandate a half-year and 11 states have no mandates. Only one state, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, require community service and civics courses before a student graduates….

A survey last year by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that 37 percent of those surveyed couldn’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment and about 75 percent don’t know all three branches of government.

In the Mamaroneck initiative, the educators envision the high school civic programs as part of a preparation for adult life. The goal of introducing students to civics as part of the school experience is the hope that they will continue to be involved after they graduate and become voters and taxpayers. Liberti said. “The goal is not just to produce informed citizens. but citizens who know how to make change.”

New York States Regents to the Rescue

On a more formal basis, the New York State Regents have decided to become involved in promoting civics in the schools.

The state Board of Regents dedicated much of their July [2018] meeting to a series of free-form “public retreat” discussions in which they sought to better define some ambitious priorities that have emerged from their work over the last three years – improving “equity” and ensuring students receive education leading to “civic readiness.”…

The concept of “civic readiness” also is on the Regents’ agenda for a better definition [along with equity]. As part of the state plan to comply with ESSA [Every Student Succeeds Act], the Regents pledged to create a civic readiness index to measure schools’ success in preparing students to become well-informed participants in a democratic society.

The Regents discussed what school-level actions and programs they wanted to encourage. In the areas of curriculum, certification and assessment related to civic engagement, options include: capstone projects, a state “seal of civic engagement,” active citizenship portfolios, service learning and voter registration awareness.

They talked about preparing students for behaviors such as community service, voter registration and voting, and jury service, as well as helping them understand concepts and issues involving criminal justice, racial bias, bigotry, rule of law and freedom of the press.

The next step in the civic readiness initiative will be to establish an advisory committee of practitioners, including teachers, parents, school librarians, curriculum specialists, administrators and college professors to define civic readiness and to recommend mechanisms for teaching and measuring civic engagement skills. Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia said the committee will not convene before autumn.

As part of this initiative a Civic Readiness Index will be developed. It will permit the measuring of compliance by students and schools in meeting these goals. Naturally there will be instructions, guidelines, and reports in conjunction with the initiative. During the summer, Generation Citizen New York City (GCNYC) commented on the proposals by the New York State Regents.

Generation Citizen NYC submits public comment on forthcoming Civic Readiness Index

On August 13, 2018 Generation Citizen New York City submitted public comment to the Commissioner of the New York State Education Department regarding the civic readiness aspect of the Career, College and Civic Readiness Index being developed as part of New York’s implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act….Generation Citizen is a nine-year-old national organization that partners with teachers and schools to help them implement a comprehensive, high-quality Action Civics education program. Our goal is to ensure that every student in the United States gains the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in our democracy as active, lifelong citizens.

Civic Engagement Gap

After detailing New York’s poor civic performance, GCNYC states is goals: Students learn about democratic structures and processes by examining their community, building consensus around an issue, conducting research, engaging local policy makers, and reflecting on the experience. GCNYC is particularly concerned with under-performing and under-resourced schools. Again one notices the emphasis on the local, on the community, on the world of the student. Municipal historians and historical societies should be part of this conversation. In New York, with the 2019 centennial of the law requiring municipalities to have historians, the need to embrace this effort should be obvious. With the New York City having only five municipal historians, one per borough, for approximately half the population of the state, the need to update this 100 year law is critical.

Defining the Civic Readiness Index

GCNYC applauds the Board of Regents …for establishing the CCCRI in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan and recognizing civics education as a critical component of ensuring students receive a well-rounded education. While the CCCRI establishes a baseline for holding schools accountable for ensuring
students’ civic readiness, the proposed regulations do not establish a civic readiness standard. We recommend that the State Education Department adopt regulations to define civic readiness.

One item in particular attracted the attention of GCNYC: the civics seal.

We believe that the civics seal prerequisites should, at minimum, include two capstone projects to be sequenced in eighth grade social studies and the existing Participation in Government course, which includes these Action Civics elements: community examination, issue identification, research, strategizing, taking action, and reflection.

To that end, we believe that, in tandem with the civics seal, the state must allocate funding to districts to provide teachers with the necessary professional development that aligns to implementing these changes…. This professional development should include providing teachers with resources, supports for coaches and administrators, and examples of how and where to find resources independently.

GCNYC is well aware of the dangers in teachers not being prepared to implement the Civics Readiness Index program and of the funding issues related to the poorer school districts. Its call for buy-in to the project from teachers and other education stakeholders should also include the municipal historians and history organizations.

I should add that in New York, Shelley Mayer, the new chair of Senate Education Committee, has expressed her interest in civics, most recently at the annual conference of social studies teachers for the Lower Hudson, in a session I put together on local history. I am looking forward to the new legislative session to begin in January and to the promotion of state and local history and civics.