This spring, the CivXNow policy team tracked nearly 90 bills in 34 state legislatures pertaining to civic education. The bulk of these bills were designed to strengthen K–12 civic education, and many made it across the finish line with bipartisan support as legislatures adjourned for the summer.
Among the highlights were Oregon entering the ranks of 40 other states in requiring at least a semester of civics for high school graduation (Rhode Island also has active legislation on this front), and new middle school civics course requirements in Indiana and New Jersey.
Indiana joined Colorado and Nevada in strengthening state civics standards or requirements. Indiana and Colorado’s proposals are now signed into law. Nevada’s is pending in the House after passing the Senate, and would create a state civic seal program for students, emulating similar distinctions in at least six other states.
Utah adopted a experiential civics pilot program for the coming school year, and Florida passed a “civics practicum” option for high school students pending Governor DeSantis’ signature. Finally, the Indiana law creates a permanent state commission of civic education, and our Georgia partners are seeking to do the same with their state department of education.
Despite this remarkable bipartisan progress, it’s important to acknowledge the late-developing, but fast-moving efforts in at least 27 states to limit teaching of so-called “divisive concepts” like racism or sexism, or prohibit use of specific curriculum like the New York Times’ “1619 Project” through legislation, executive actions, or both. Several of the former are already signed into law.
In some cases, the new mandates conflict with existing standards, making compliance confusing for teachers, schools, and districts. Moreover, discussions of current and controversial issues have been proven to foster students’ civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions.
Our community will take up these issues formally, and we welcome your comments in the meantime.
Yours in civics,
Senior Director of State Policy and Advocacy, iCivics