State leaders, educators call for more civics education funding

STATE LAWMAKERS have proposed legislation that would provide $1 million in statewide funding for civics education. / PBN FILE PHOTO/CASSIUS SHUMAN

PROVIDENCE – A pair of state lawmakers have filed proposed legislation that, if passed, would provide $1 million in statewide funding for civics education as part of Rhode Island’s education funding formula.

Rep. June S. Speakman, D-Warren, and Sen. Sandra Cano, D-Pawtucket, have filed the proposed bills in their respective chambers within the R.I. General Assembly. The lawmakers say the funding would be exclusively used for teacher professional development in civics, including specifics such as culturally responsive teaching, media literacy and project-based learning.

The funding, they say, will also provide purchases and creations of civic education curriculum, technical assistance and support to implement student-led civic projects, partnering with local community organizations and evaluating civic learning at the district level.

This push builds on the state law passed in 2021 that requires public school students across Rhode Island to demonstrate proficiency in civics. The law is aimed to ensure that all students understand how government works, the principles of democracy, and the rights and duties of an actively engaged citizenship.

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However, according to the Rhode Island Civic Learning Coalition’s State of Civics Education in RI Report, only 21% of administrators said their districts have a civics course and just 10% said civics come as a current priority. That comes as more than half of students statewide feel learning about civics now will be important for their future, per the report.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette

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