Governor Baker Signs Civics Bill

Will bolster instruction of civics in public schools
Governor Charlie Baker signs the civics bill. (Courtesy Governor Baker)

From the office of State Rep. Will Crocker:

BOSTON – On Thursday November 8th, 2018, Governor Charlie Baker signed S.2631, An Act to Promote and Enhance Civics Engagement. Governor Baker was joined by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Education Secretary James Peyser, Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, JFK Library Executive Director Steven M. Rothstein, EMK Institute President Mary Grant, Media Literacy Now President Erin McNeill, Generation Citizen Massachusetts Executive Director Arielle Jennings, representatives from UTEC Lowell & Teens Leading the Way, local students and members of the Legislature, including Representative William Crocker (R-Centerville).

Representative Crocker was appointed to a six-member Civics bill conference committee in June, where the committee members worked to create compromise legislation between the House and Senate versions of the bill; H.4545 and S.2375. At the bill signing, Representative Crocker spoke of his excitement of the bill becoming law; “As a former civics teacher, I was incredibly proud to have served on the conference committee for this bill. Now more than ever, civics education is vital to the strength of our democracy and this legislation will ensure that our youth continue to learn that lesson.” This was Representative Crocker’s first conference committee appointment since being elected to the legislature in 2016. It is not usually custom to appoint freshmen legislators to conference committees but given Representative Crocker’s prior experience as a civics teacher, Minority Leader Jones felt that this would be a unique opportunity for Rep. Crocker to share his first-hand knowledge on the topic. 

This 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.


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