APRIL 2021
Civics Teachers Are Guardians of Our Constitutional Democracy
On the eve of Teacher Appreciation Week, May 3-7, the CivXNow Coalition salutes teachers on the frontlines of our efforts to strengthen civic education and prepare students for informed, effective engagement in our constitutional democracy. In this most difficult year of pandemic, polarization, and disinformation, teachers answered the call of duty again and again.
Jen Reidel is one such social studies teacher at Options High School in Bellingham, WA. She wrote recently, “Nationally, we are at a crossroads. For our democracy to continue, future generations must know its structures, ideals, histories, and ways to engage within their respective communities.” Reidel continued, “Countless individual teachers have dedicated their careers to engaging students civically. Yet this is not enough. We need real and systemic change.”
Not only is civics the consensus solution to strengthening our common national identity, teachers are the most trusted source across the political spectrum on civic education.
Answering Reidel’s call, teachers must be advocates for stronger civic education as they are our foremost experts and understand the consequences of civics’ marginalization and disinvestment. Opportunities abound for teacher advocacy at the local, state, and national level.
  The Educating for American Democracy Roadmap educator brief provides helpful talking points for making the case for stronger civic education to fellow teachers and school leaders.
  Nearly 90 bills affecting civic education were filed in at least 35 state legislatures this spring. Teachers’ voices are critical to pushing the most promising proposals across the finish line. Engage with our state affiliates in their respective coalition building and policy advocacy campaigns.
  The federal Civics Secures Democracy Act (CSD) was introduced in Congress last month. Help us build a strong, bipartisan majority backing this transformational legislation by contacting your Senators and Representative, asking for their support and co-sponsorship.
Teachers remain the heart and soul of this collective work, and the CivXNow team salutes you for your service as guardians of our constitutional democracy.
Inside this newsletter:
  Building a Bipartisan Supermajority for the CSD
  Hats Off to the Hoosier State for a Huge Civics Policy Win
  Spotlight on Civics in Spring State Legislative Sessions
  Help Us Revise the CivXNow State Policy Menu
  New Coalition Members
Building a Bipartisan Supermajority for the Civics Secures Democracy Act
The Civics Secures Democracy Act (CSD) was introduced in Congress on March 11 with bipartisan co-sponsorship in both congressional chambers. The CSD would bring $1B annually to civic education through grants to states for dispersal to Local Education Agencies, civic education nonprofits, higher education (pre-service teaching and research), a new fellowship program (Prince Hall) to strengthen the racial and ethnic diversity of the teaching pipeline, and an expanded and updated National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in Civics.
CivXNow Coalition members and organizational sponsors of the bill have been diligent in their outreach to Senators and Representatives, requesting co-sponsorship, and at a minimum, for an affirmative vote when the bill is ultimately called. If you have not done so already, please access the CSD Toolkit to facilitate these communications to your state’s Senators and U.S. Representative. A list of staff contacts is linked within, along with an email template for you to customize. You’ll also find sample tweets and Facebook messages you can share to promote the bill.
This month, we’re scheduling virtual meetings with Senators and Representatives on behalf of the bill. These meetings will provide an excellent opportunity for constituents, teachers, and students in particular to speak to the importance of a generational investment in civics the CSD represents. New Jersey social studies teacher Michael Martirone said it best in contacting Senators Booker (D-NJ) and Menendez (D-NJ) and Congressman Van Drew (R-NJ): “Civics action for civic education. The best of both worlds!”
Hear more about the legislation from its sponsors, Senator Coons (D-DE) and Senator Cornyn (R-TX), in their recent interview with NPR’s Morning Edition.
Hats Off to the Hoosier State for a Huge Civics Policy Win
Indiana House Bill (HB) 1384, legislation to require a semester of civics in middle school and create a state civic education commission, passed the state Senate last month in a unanimous, 49-0 vote. This followed a favorable 88-1 vote in the House in February. Governor Eric Holcomb (R) signed HB 1384 on April 9th.
Brown County (IN) Superintendent Dr. Laura Hammack, a member of the 2020 state task force whose recommendations informed HB 1384, labeled the legislation a "game changer" for Hoosier State students. "We believe in what it advances which is bringing back more of an intentional focus on civic education." Hammack added, "[It will facilitate] better understanding [of] how our government works so that we might be better able to participate."
The CivXNow team salutes Superintendent Hammack and the Indiana Bar Foundation, a CivXNow state affiliate and the convener of the task force behind the bill. CEO and President Chuck Dunlap deserves special mention for his steadfast leadership on civics to strengthen voting and other forms of community participation. Hats off to the Hoosier State for this major policy win during the pandemic!
Spotlight on Civics in Spring State Legislative Sessions
We’ve been tracking proposed state legislation impacting civic education since January. At least 87 bills or resolutions addressing civics were filed in 35 states. Two are already signed into law, 13 failed to advance, with the balance in various phases of legislative or executive consideration. Some of these proposals represent significant advances for civics, others are mostly window dressing, and a few would be detrimental to local control of civic education.
Among the most promising developments are:
  Utah’s civic learning pilot program was shifted to the 2021-2022 school year (via HB 124) and signed into law by Governor Spencer Cox (R).
  Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) signed legislation (HB 1940) empowering its Department of Education to develop guidelines for students for excused absences related to community participation.
  Florida’s legislature passed a bill (SB 146) establishing a civics practicum for high school students and a school recognition program for civics. Small differences between the two chambers must be reconciled before it advances to the Governor.
  Georgia’s SB 220 would create a state civics commission and it passed both chambers, but in different forms. The 2021 legislative session has ended, so the Senate changes will go to the House for affirmation in January.
  Oregon’s SB 513 would add Oregon to the ranks of 41 other states with a high school civics course requirement. It passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote and heads next to the House.
Help Us Revise the CivXNow State Policy Menu
Two years ago, the CivXNow Coalition published a policy menu for state and local policymakers with options to strengthen and improve civic learning for all students. In light of the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap’s release last month, we’re revising the state policy menu to align with the Roadmap’s recommendations. Please contact Shawn Healy, Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy for the CivXNow Coalition, if you’d like to join the review team.
Responsibilities include independent review of draft revisions, a 60-minute virtual meeting to discuss consolidated feedback, and approval of the final version of the menu.
Meet the Newest CivXNow Coalition Members
The CivXNow Coalition is growing fast. We now stand at 166 member organizations strong! We remain deeply appreciative of all of your efforts and what we have accomplished together. Our goal is to aggregate and activate large networks of support to expand and re-imagine civic education as a force for civic strength. Thank you for your partnership. If you are part of an organization interested in joining the Coalition or learning more, please contact Patricia Leslie-Brown.
The latest additions to the Coalition include:
  Project TEAL
  RealClear Foundation
Our Mission
Recognizing that preparing our youth to assume the responsibilities and understand their rights as active participants in the civic life of this great nation is essential to the health of our Republic, we pledge to help every school in the nation fulfill its historic and vital civic mission. We pledge to ensure that every young person acquires the civic knowledge, skills, and behaviors necessary for informed and authentic civic engagement.
A Team Effort
The CivXNow team produces this newsletter each month.
We are grateful for the energy, time, and guidance of the CivXNow Advisory Council and to many, many others who support individual projects.
The important work of CivXNow is generously funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York,
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and The Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
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