US Senate News:
Source: United States Senator for Oklahoma James Inhofe
This week, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) joined U.S. Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) in introducing legislation to expand access to civics education with an investment across K-12 and higher education. The Civics Secures Democracy Act will expand educational programming in history and civics, with funding available for state education agencies, nonprofits and institutions of higher education and research. In addition to Inhofe, original cosponsors of the legislation include Sens. Angus King (I-Maine), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
Civics Secures would help states close key gaps in students’ history and civics educations. Only nine states and the District of Columbia require a full year of civics or government studies, and 10 states have no requirement at all. At the same time, American trust in public institutions is near all-time lows.
“There is an old document around that nobody reads anymore called the Constitution,” said Inhofe. “It established the basis and formation of our nation: that we are a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Yet, too often, students aren’t taught about the Constitution, its history or its principles. That’s why I am proud to introduce the Civics Secures Democracy Act, which incorporates my CIVICS Act, alongside Sens. Cornyn and Coons, to expand civics education. We must do all we can to encourage more young Americans to be active participants in our democracy by communicating with their elected officials, engaging in advocacy and, when eligible, voting in state, local and federal elections.”
“As President Lincoln said, ours is a government of the People, by the People, and for the People, but we can’t govern ourselves if we don’t have knowledge of our foundational principles or our history,” said Cornyn. “This bill would help our schools inspire the next generation of public servants and teach all young Texans the value of freedom, and I’m glad to work with Sen. Coons on this bipartisan legislation.”
“I have long believed that equipping students with robust understandings of their government and history is a critical step toward building a stronger, more resilient America,” said Coons. “I am particularly heartened that the spirit of this legislation is reflected in the diverse backgrounds and ideologies of the co-sponsors of this bill, and I thank my colleagues for their work to move this effort forward. By making historic investments in the history and civics education of our children, we will help ensure that the next generation of Americans have the tools they need to be good neighbors and citizens.”
“American democracy is an anomaly in world history, and its future relies on each generation understanding our shared history and founding ideals,” said King. “Supporting civics education is one of the most important investments we can make to protect this system of government for the generations to come. With our nation facing deep divisions, I hope this bipartisan legislation can help bring us together around core principles, support Maine educators, and teach young Americans about what makes our system of self-government so precious.”
“America’s history unites us as Americans. Civics education tells that story. As we seek to overcome our divides, telling this story is essential,” said Dr. Cassidy.
The Civics Secures Democracy Act will help support educational programs in civics and history by:
Creating a Civics Secures Democracy Fund supported in the first instance using COVID relief funds for programs that have since expired, providing $1 billion annually for civics and history initiatives. These initiatives are broken out as:
$585 million for state education agencies, which would be awarded by formula and passed on to districts to support civics and history education programs, especially with a lens to closing civics achievement gaps;
$200 million for nonprofit organizations, which would be awarded competitively and used to develop and provide access to evidence-based civics and history curricula and programs;
$150 million for institutions of higher education, which would be awarded competitively, used to support civics and history educator preparation and ongoing development;
$50 million for researchers, which would be awarded competitively and used to assess and evaluate civics and history education programs and identify best instructional practices; and
$15 million for a new Prince Hall Civics Fellowship program, which would diversify the civics and history education workforce by recognizing outstanding educators from underrepresented communities and providing a supplemental stipend in exchange for a five year teaching commitment.
Incorporating the USA Civics Act and CIVICS Act – both bipartisan – updating existing K–12 and higher education civics grant programs.
Encouraging the biennial administration of the civics and history NAEP in grades 4, 8, and 12.
Strengthening and making the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation and James Madison Fellowship Program sustainable by recapitalizing their respective trusts and providing them broader investment authorities.
“For more than a century, Girl Scouts has been at the forefront of civics education,” said Sofia Chang, Chief Executive Officer, Girl Scouts of the USA. “Community engagement, education and action are a core part of the Girl Scout experience, and though many may not be able to vote yet, it is an imperative that girls understand the levers of our political system and how change is made so they can effectively make their voices heard. The Civics Secures Democracy Act will open opportunities for civics learning everywhere, ensuring Girl Scouts and our nation’s youth, are prepared to go out into the world as informed and engaged citizens, now and for the rest of their lives.”
“Happily the Civics Secures Democracy Act provides significant federal funding to improve civic education while leaving the curricular and teaching decisions where they belong, in the states and local districts,” said David Davenport, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institute. “Formula grants to states help assure that this is federal support but not a federal takeover.”
“Introduction of the bipartisan Civics Secures Democracy Act is a long-overdue initiative to invest in our nation’s civic education,” said Lewis F. Larsen, President, James Madison Foundation. “For more than three decades, the James Madison Foundation has promoted the U.S. Constitution through its fellowship program and this legislation will ensure that our efforts will continue for years to come.”
“This bill follows the important work of the Commission on Military, National and Public Service by offering a bold and inclusive vision to significantly strengthen the culture of service in our nation, which begins with comprehensive civic education and service learning starting in kindergarten through high school,” said Dr. Joseph Heck, former Republican Congressman from Nevada and Chair, National Commission on Military, National and Public Service.
A section-by-section summary of the Civics Secures Democracy Act is available here.
A one-pager for the Civics Secures Democracy Act is available here.