CivXNow Policy Summit to Celebrate Progress, Promote Nationwide Efforts to Strengthen K-12 Civic Education

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The fate of our constitutional democracy is dependent upon stronger state and federal K-12 civic education policies. High-quality, school-based civic learning opportunities foster civic friendship, civil disagreement, and reflective patriotism among our youngest citizens, empowering them to extend the blessings of liberty in the United States for our posterity.

To these ends, the CivXNow Coalition, a project of iCivics, will host its inaugural Policy Summit later this month, September 21-22, where progress on both state and federal civic education policies will be celebrated, and the groundwork laid for further action in state sessions this fall and next spring.

Despite deep political divisions, K-12 civic education emerged as the most powerful solution to strengthen our national common identity in a poll conducted by prominent pollster Frank Luntz last year among 1,000 likely voters. Not only did it far surpass national service (36%), less money in politics (35%), and easier access to voting (24%), K-12 civic education earned bipartisan support, with 56% of Democrats and Republicans endorsing it as a policy solution.

And we have made significant progress. This year alone, nearly 90 bills were proposed in at least 34 state legislatures regarding K-12 civic education. At the national level, the bipartisan, bicameral Civics Secures Democracy Act was introduced in the 117th Congress, proposing a $1 billion annual federal investment in civic education carried out by states, districts, nonprofits, and universities.

Diverse states from coast-to-coast passed and signed several of these laws, including Indiana and New Jersey, where students will soon take a required middle school civics course, and Oregon and Rhode Island, who in requiring a high school civics course, leave only seven states without such a requirement.

But this is just a start. Only nine states require a yearlong high school civics course, and the subject area remains severely under-resourced. The success of STEM education has shown us what can happen when the federal government invests in a subject area — to the tune of $54 annually per K-12 student. By contrast, only a nickel per student is allocated for civics.

Moreover, beyond course requirements and government resources, there’s a fierce debate about how the subject is taught along with the content chosen to meet course requirements and state standards. We welcome this debate, and position the CivXNow Policy Summit as a place to both identify common ground and air legitimate disagreements.

Join Secretaries Madeleine Albright and Robert Gates, historian Lonnie Bunch, filmmaker Ken Burns, and other luminaries who will weigh in on the urgency of stronger state and federal civics policies, the balance between focusing on civic knowledge and experiential learning, and content debates centered on the nation’s triumphs versus the accompanying tragedies in our past and present.

Low levels of civic knowledge among our citizenry are not sustainable, nor are the historic levels of political polarization and distrust in institutions and one another. Stronger K-12 civic education policies provide a pathway to sustaining and perfecting our constitutional democracy. We invite you to join us at the virtual CivXNow Policy Summit on September 21-22 where debates will be spirited, and momentum built for a citizenry with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors necessary for informed engagement in the civic life of our communities, states, and country.

Shawn P. Healy, PhD, is the Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy for the CivXNow Coalition, a project of iCivics.

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