About THE MASSACHUSETTS CIVICS EDUCATION LAW
An Act to Promote and Enhance Civic Engagement, Chapter 296 (2018)
Sponsored by Senate President, Senator Harriette Chandler & Representative Linda Campbell
Why does Massachusetts need high-quality civic education for all students?
"There is a tremendous need for schools to educate students on American history and civics. Most students lack civic awareness and the lack of knowledge about our country discourages involvement in affairs relevant to our community. The “High School Voter Challenge” will increase voter outcome in Massachusetts and teach students to be informed voters. The student-led civics project will also encourage teens to be engaged in their community and will shape future involved citizens."
- Cassandra Dasco, freshman at Hingham High School
- Our politics and public discourse are highly polarized, inequality is growing, and media literacy is lacking, but the challenges and opportunities we face as a Commonwealth demand the talent and input of all citizens, including our young people.
- Our public schools play a vital role, but civic education is inconsistent and disproportionately available to students in higher-income school districts.
- In a 2015 survey of Massachusetts district superintendents, 59.5% rated the level of civic learning in their districts as “insufficient” and 65% reported offering only “few/limited” or “occasional” opportunities for civic learning.
- Nationally, White and wealthy students are 3 times more likely to achieve a“proficient” score in civics than Black, Hispanic and poor students.
- Requires that all public schools teach American history and civics education.
- Requires that all public schools provide students at the middle and high school levels with student-led civics projects.
- Establishes a Civics Project Trust Fund which will be used to create a statewide civic infrastructure. This funding will provide professional development to teachers, ensuring that every student in the Commonwealth has access to high quality civics education.
- Includes provisions to encourage voter registration and create opportunities for other vital forms of civic engagement.
How does this law support the goal of high-quality civic education for all students?
"Without apt knowledge + understanding regarding how our political system works, it will be very difficult to make the changes needed for progress and cooperation in the years to come. However, by engaging with the current political issues directly through student-led projects, this bill will promote meaningful political discourse, the cradle of our democracy."
- Mike Brodo, Chair, MA Teenage Republicans, Xaverian Brothers High School
What are the benefits of enactment of this law to Massachusetts, and its citizens?
“As a high school senior, I didn’t believe that I could make a change in my community or in this country. That quickly changed. After three months of hard work, learning how to do research, how to advocate for change, and how to contact and convince people in power, I learned that everything is possible when you know how to advocate.”
- Carla Duran Capellan, former Generation Citizen Action Civics student, Lowell High School
- All students, in all public school districts, will have the support they need to develop the civic skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary to be informed, engaged citizens of the Commonwealth.
- Courses will include community engagement, which research finds improves interpersonal and problem solving skills and contributes to college and career readiness.
- When young people are exposed to high-quality civic education, they are more likely to be informed voters and lifelong participants in political and civic life.