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Reps. Honda and Cole Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Promote Civic Education

July 9, 2015
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Reps. Mike Honda (D-Silicon Valley) and Tom Cole (R-Okl) introduced the Sandra Day O'Connor Civic Learning Act to promote civic education. Currently, there is insufficient direct federal support to help develop innovative and effective approaches to engage students in learning about our democracy.

"Giving students the tools they need to learn about our form of government and ensure the continuation of the ideals we hold dear is imperative to the future of our country. Our public schools have long provided the foundation for students to engage in civic participation, and creating this grant system will ensure that tradition endures," said Congressman Honda.

"As a lifelong student of history, I am pleased to help introduce legislation that encourages young people to learn about how the United States of America came to be a great Republic. I believe that in order to preserve our nation's form of governance, we must train up the youngest citizens to appreciate and understand from where we've come. The Sandra Day O'Connor Civic Learning Act helps increases understanding and awareness of our constitutional heritage for future generations, and in the process, I believe this knowledge will instill greater patriotism and civic participation," said Congressman Cole.

The Sandra Day O'Connor Civic Learning Act will create a competitive grant program to support the work of non-profit organizations to develop and make available programs and approaches to civic learning, and to to increase civic participation in the democratic process.

Honda and Cole urged their colleagues to support the bill, stating that "America's leaders have long recognized that for our democracy to endure, each generation of Americans must be educated about their constitutional heritage, the rights and duties of enlightened citizenship, and the practices of engaged citizenry. "

The bill's namesake, Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, notes that "the better educated our citizens are, the better equipped they will be to preserve the system of government we have. And we have to start with the education of our nation's young people. Every generation has to learn it, and we have some work to do."

Upon introduction of the legislation by Honda and Cole, the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools (CMS), a coalition of over seventy national civic learning, education, civic engagement and business groups, salutes Representatives Honda and Cole on the introduction of this very important measure.

"Civic Education was a principal reason for the establishment of a system of public education in our nation in the first place," said Dr. Mabel McKinney-Browning, Chairman of the CMS Steering Committee and Public Education Division Director at the American Bar Association. "And every recent reliable measure proves we are coming up short in this vital area of education."

"HR 1802 will help reverse a decades-long decline in effective civic learning in our nation's schools," said CMS Executive Director Ted McConnell. "While education policy is the rightful province of state and local policymaking bodies, the federal government has a historic and legitimate role to play in spurring innovation and equity in curricular subjects. And the Honda/Cole bill will do just that."

McConnell also noted that it is particularly appropriate for this legislation to be named for Justice O'Connor, who along with former Rep. Lee Hamilton serves as Co-Chair of the CMS. As he put it, "Justice O'Connor reminds us at every opportunity that "knowledge about our government is not handed down through the gene pool. Every generation has to learn it, and we have some work to do.' "