Civics education bill becomes law

BOSTON – On November 8, a civics education bill was signed into law by the Governor which would promote and enhance civics education in public schools across the Commonwealth. The bill, S2631, An Act to promote and enhance civic engagement, is a result of a conference committee made up of several legislators, including Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington).

As a member of the Civics Education conference committee, I’m very pleased that it was signed into law today,” said Senator Friedman. “It is vitally important for the future leaders of the world to understand the value of our nation’s history and learn how they can participate in the democratic process to ensure that their voices are heard.”

The new law will make it a requirement for Massachusetts public high schools and school districts serving eighth-grade students to provide at least one student-led, non-partisan civics project for each student. These projects can be individual, small group, or class-wide and they must be designed to promote student abilities related to the analysis of complex issues; consideration of different perspectives; logical reasoning with supportive evidence; engagement in civil discourse, and understanding of the connections between federal, state, and local policies, including those that may impact the student’s school or community.

Under the new law, a student who chooses not to participate in a particular group or class-wide project must be offered the opportunity to develop an individual civics project, with approval by the principal.

This bill also creates a Civics Project Trust Fund, which will be used to assist Massachusetts communities with implementing history and civics education state requirements, particularly in underserved communities.

In addition, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), in consultation with the Secretary of State, will work to form a non-partisan high school voter challenge program to raise awareness for eligible students to register or pre-register to vote.

This bill will complement recent actions taken by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. In June, the Board voted to approve a revision of the History and Social Sciences curriculum framework, which will improve the impact of civics education across multiple grade levels and subject areas.