A federal bill supported by 7th District Rep. Rob Woodall could lead to $30 million in funding to be used for civics education in schools across the country.
Woodall recently cosponsored the Civil Learning Act of 2019, HR 849, which was sponsored by Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Democrat representing Florida’s 20th Congressional District. Woodall said the bipartisan bill would strengthen civics education efforts at the local level and would not be a top-down mandate from the federal government.
“The pilot project aspect of this is really important,” Woodall said. “So often, what divides Republicans and Democrats is writing that giant check and putting a federal mandate out there that you have to run your local school system this way. I reject that model, so this program is entirely optional, voluntary, participatory, designed to find those people that want to succeed in this area and helping them with the money to succeed.”
The bill, which has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor, aims to bolster civic education at all levels of K-12 education but has a particular focus on younger students.
“You can have all the STEM and STEAM programs that you want, but social studies is what we do for the rest of our lives,” said Debbie Daniell, former social studies director for Gwinnett County Public Schools.
The bill says those funds could be used for hands-on civic engagement activities, activities about history and principles of the Constitution, extracurricular activities, online and video-game-based learning, service projects and school governance activities.
“Success for this program is, yes, defined in test scores and, yes, by reaching those folks who have not been reached, but more so by proving a model that works in engaging people at the youngest levels of elementary school and reminding folks that being an American citizen is the single greatest gift that any of us have been given. And with those rights come lots of responsibilities,” Woodall said.
Georgia State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods, a former social studies teacher, said he supported efforts to “increase awareness of civics to our young people” and liked the flexibility of the proposal.
“I think it allows us to better address needs,” Woods said. “Not being a one-size-fits-all. We have roughly 180 school districts and 2,300 schools. The needs look different going from school to school and district to district, so I think having that flexibility is very welcome, but it also builds upon our civic engagement diploma seal for our high school students as well and really allows us to address some issues at the lower elementary level, as well.”
Daniell said civic learning is a part of education that students will use in their adult lives and is critical for raising the next generation of informed citizens.
“Civic learning is a tool by which individuals living here become Americans, and they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to participate in the life of this nation,” she said. “Without civic learning, we can hope to preserve the Republic that was born two centuries ago. With it, we can unleash generations of Americans … to be prepared to address these greatest challenges that we have now.”