Investment works! In the current interconnected world, civic learning has never been more important. Yet, over several decades, schools have spent less time and funding on civic learning. This trend accelerated as a result of focus on and funding for, policies promoting accountability for basic literacy and STEM. As a result of dis-investment, the infrastructure for civic learning significantly deteriorated in our nation’s K-12 schools. That infrastructure includes professional development, materials, and other supports for civic education. Investment makes a difference.
Since 2010, Florida has implemented one of the more aggressive efforts to increase civic education in public schools after it adopted the Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Education Act. The Act prescribes a civics class in seventh grade with a mandatory test, required to graduate from middle school, and additional civics instruction in high school. The state also funded ongoing teacher professional development through the Florida Joint Center on Citizenship.
In the aftermath of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, the leadership, confidence, and poise of student leaders impressed the nation. They emerged as eloquent advocates for political change at the local, state, and national level. One of the reasons these students are able to articulate their views so well is that they are the beneficiaries of what is arguably one of the nation’s most comprehensive and successful efforts to teach civics.
The percentage of students who passed the state’s seventh grade civics exam has gone up from 61% in 2014 to 70% in 2017. At Westglades Middle School, which feeds into the high school in Parkland, FL, scores were even higher: 86% versus 70% statewide. Unquestionably, the students of Parkland had an excellent civic education even before they set foot in high school.
Annual federal level expenditures for STEM education average about $50 per every K-12 public school student. By contrast, funding for civic education is roughly 5 cents per student per year. Most assuredly, the subject most connected with the health and future of our constitutional democracy is as deserving of support as other K-12 subjects.
More specificity about what needs to be funded:
- Policy advancement
- Stakeholder engagement
- Place-based work across differences