Memorandum to the Incoming Biden Administration

  • Pass the Educating for Democracy Act: ​First, we propose working with Congress to introduce and pass legislation to significantly expand support and funding for civics education efforts. This bill would follow the Educating for Democracy Act’s framework, recently introduced with bipartisan support from Rep. Tom Cole and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, along with support in the Senate from Sens. Chris Coons and John Cornyn. The bill would appropriate $1 billion for civics and social studies related efforts.
  1. State funding, with most going to districts to aid their civics education programs.
  2. Nonprofits that provide curriculum and training for civics;
  3. Higher education-based teacher-preparation programs.
  • ESSA Reauthorization: ​Additionally, we ask the incoming Biden Administration to work with Congress to prioritize civic readiness in ESSA Reauthorization. The Every Student Success Act (ESSA), which sets the agenda for education policy, will be up for reauthorization during the next presidential administration, after the 2020–21 school year. In concert with Congress, the next administration should use this opportunity to require states to present plans on civic readiness for review by the U.S. Department of Education. As New York State has shown, including civic readiness within a federally reviewed state plan brings the double advantage of providing a model for other states to consider while ensuring that students within a state receive comprehensive civics education.
  1. Centering Civic Readiness as a Core Value ​The mission of the U.S. Department of Education should include civic readiness as a measure of global competitiveness, placing it alongside educational excellence and ensuring equal access;
  2. Measuring the Right Data.​ We need to dramatically increase the level of data recorded for history and civics. We need to know, for example: how many minutes of instruction are spent on K-12 history and civics instruction and the level of preparation of educators, as well as how equitable are the opportunities for civic achievement and opportunities for practice.
  3. Promoting a School to Public Square Pipeline. ​The next administration should address civic disjuncture for all students by fostering school climate reform. Restoring the Department of Education’s prior guidance for states, districts, and schools on proven disciplinary strategies of classroom management, as articulated in the Rethink Discipline initiative, is an excellent, common-sense approach to advance social-emotional learning and educational environments conducive for democracy education.
  4. Taking Collective Action​. The federal government should seek the establishment of a White House civics education task force comprised of national civil society groups with responsibility for education services, experts in civics and policy to align their influence and networks around promoting civic learning on an ongoing basis. This group should meet regularly and agree on collective actions to prioritize.
  5. Promote Competition, Transparency, and Accountability: ​The Department of Education should task a group of experts to develop a Civic Equity and Excellence rubric and require the publication of civic learning progress against that rubric by states. These measures must include student achievement, equity measures, educator preparation, and real-world civic engagement opportunities.
  6. Enable Our Educators to Succeed. ​Performance of educator preparation and practice in history and civics, including the field’s diversification, must be dramatically improved. The U.S. DOE should award a grant to develop an educator competency rubric and certification program that would ensure that educators are supported in developing the skills required to teach history and civics and recognized for this achievement.
  7. Establish an Inclusive Civics Partnership Between K-12 and Higher Education. ​The Department of Education should revive its K-12 and higher education partnership. This could entail encouraging and allocating resources to incentivize institutions of higher education — including HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions — to organize state-based convenings on civics education; and to identify and articulate pathways to scale up best practices for advancing racial equity among state superintendents, chief state school officers, and district leaders.

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50x2026

50x2026

50x2026 is a national initiative to elevate civics education policy, in every state, by 2026 — the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.