The civic education community has warned that a revival of civics in schools is a critical way to heal our divided country. Now, as the pandemic shuts down everyday life, we’re seeing what civics truly is. It’s not just about voting, or even community action; it’s the entirety of the interplay between people and institutions, and among Americans themselves, as all of us seek to forge a collective path forward. We’re watching play out around us the greatest living lesson in civics of our lifetimes.

As Covid-19 forces us indoors, collapses our economy, and tests the limits of our social welfare system, we’re seeing just how important it is for Americans to call upon the leaders of our institutions to guide us, but also how a shared sense of the common good can guide individual actions. That sense of the common good is at the heart of civic strength.  

That is the difference between our country and so many others. Our system allows for a response that belongs to all of us. Self-isolation, quarantining, and sheltering in place are not things that are happening to the American people. Rather, they are decisions made with our tacit consent and with our willingness to participate. Our system requires everyone to buy into social distancing and restricting public access for the common good. 

We are seeing democracy at work - a federal system in action in which states and local governments sometimes take lead roles alongside the federal government as the people play their part. We’re seeing the importance of the balance between individual rights and the common good.

In a country as individualistic and politically polarized as ours, millions have played a role in helping to resolve the broader crisis. This moment crystalizes the importance of civic strength. At CivXNow, we will make the case that civic learning is critical to building civic strength.

Inside this Newsletter:
  • A Federal Role in Civics - What Federal Policy and the Stimulus Could Mean for You
  • Join the CivXNow Policy Task Force
  • Mark your Calendar - CivXNow Webinars
  • Youth as Civic Experts Social Media Campaign
  • New Coalition Members
  • Member Spotlight - Building Active Citizen-Scholars with Democracy Prep
  • New York Civic Readiness Model
A Federal Role in Civics - What Federal Policy and the Stimulus Could Mean for You

New legislative action at the federal level could have implications for your organizations. We will host a webinar to provide vital information about a range of important new federal policies on April 29th.  

Commissioner James and staff from the National Commission on Military, Public and National Service will join us on a webinar to discuss the recommendations of the Commission and the status of H.R. 6415 Inspire to Serve Act that includes $200 Million in funding for civics. They will answer your questions about the recommendations and how they tie in with funding for public service.

CivXNow is also requesting from Congress that $40 Million be made available to nonprofit civic education supplemental programmers  to provide online lessons, projects as well as parent and teacher professional development in civic education within a digital learning environment. This is an enduring need that will outlast the pandemic - but is especially acute right now. Funding is needed to help teachers develop virtual lessons and teaching strategies appropriate for a unique learning environment. This funding is crucial for supporting students’ civic learning and our field.

In addition to seeking emergency funding specifically for civic learning, CivXNow has urged members to seek funding from the Paycheck Protection Program that was part of the CARES Act. There are additional possibilities in the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) program that was also part of the CARES Act.

Find out more details about these new programs by joining us on Wednesday, April 29th at 2:30 to 4pm ET for a federal policy webinar featuring the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service , Andrew Wilkes of Generation Citizen , President of Linchpin Strategies Catriona Macdonald, and CivXNow Senior Policy Advisor Ted McConnell. We’ll answer your questions about how Coalition members can support these bills and access federal civic education funding!  

Register for the A Federal Role in Civics
What Federal Policy and the Stimulus Could Mean for You webinar below!
Join the CivXNow Policy Task Force  

Are you involved in a state-level civic learning coalition? Does your organization want to help make policy progress to expand and promote comprehensive civic learning? Join the CivXNow Policy Task Force !

The Task Force will meet monthly via webinar to share best practices and resources and galvanize the momentum around civics to enact and implement civic learning policy - such as the work done in Florida , Illinois and Massachusetts

The Chair of the CivXNow Policy Task Force and Program Director at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation , Shawn Healy, will lead the discussion.

Mark your Calendar - More CivXNow Webinars 

Join us Wednesday, May 6th at 12pm to 1:30pm ET for the Collaborating with Communities of Color for Civics webinar with CivXNow Coalition members, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute . Learn about collaborative opportunities available with these two organizations, how they serve Black and Brown communities, and so much more. We encourage your outreach and programming teams to join us.

Register for the Collaborating with Communities of Color for Civics webinar below!
Join us on Thursday, May 7th at 7pm to 8pm ET as students will host a virtual version of their SXSW EDU session Pass the Mic: Students Discuss Equity in Civic Education . Panelists A’Niya Bankston (Deer Valley HS, CA), Jaden Deal (Harvard, by way of IA), and Alexandra Henderson (LSU Lab School, LA) will explore whether students are getting what they need from their civic education. This session will pass the mic to the students, allowing them to share their insights and experiences working with adults to bring equitable change to their civic learning environments. If students are our primary stakeholders, why aren’t we asking them what they think? This session will focus on the impact of the Equity in Civics Youth Fellowship , highlighting student voice as central to the discussion on equity in civic education.

Register for the Pass the Mic:
Students Discuss Equity in Civic Education webinar below!
Youth as Civic Experts Social Media Campaign

On March 2nd, students in the Equity in Civics Youth Fellowship and the iCivics Youth As Civic Experts network, launched the #CivicsForUS social media campaign. The Equity in Civics Youth Fellowship is part of a larger joint effort between iCivics and Generation Citizen , funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation , to explore equity in civic education. Students leading the #CivicsForUS social media campaign surveyed 900 students in 9 states and Puerto Rico to hear what students solutions and opinions about creating equitable and relevant civic learning experiences. 

Show your support! 
Follow and read real-time student insights on Twitter and Instagram
Share the campaign landing page:
New Coalition Members

Working in concert with one another, we believe that we can ensure every school fulfills its vital civic mission that all students have access to quality civic education and are prepared with the knowledge and skills necessary for authentic, informed, and effective civic engagement. The CivXNow Coalition now stands strong at 119 member organizations! We remain deeply appreciative of all of your efforts and what we have already accomplished together.
The latest addition to the Coalition include:
These organizations will be added to the full list of members on the CivXNow website . Please join us in welcoming them to the Coalition! Several other organizations are also in the process of joining. We urge you to recruit new members that share our goals. We are especially interested in recruiting more national organizations with large, scaled networks, state civic learning coalitions, youth voice organizations, organizations that represent rural or urban communities, and organizations that are active in K-12 after-school activities.
Member Spotlight - Building Active Citizen-Scholars with Democracy Prep

This month’s member spotlight focuses on Rashid Duroseau, the civics program director for Democracy Prep . Founded in 2005, Democracy Prep operates a network of 22 high-performing charter schools in Washington, DC, New York, New Jersey, Baton Rouge, Las Vegas, and San Antonio - educating 6,500 citizen-scholars, primarily students of color, about what change is possible within American democracy. A former classroom teacher, Duroseau now ensures that Democracy Prep’s learning ties back to the idea of building schools and scholars that are active in their communities. 

Q: What is Democracy Prep?

Duroseau: Unlike a lot of other educational institutions, Democracy Prep is really focused explicitly on developing active citizen-scholars. We really want to ensure that we're educating the next generation of changemakers, the next generation of policy makers, the next generation of activists and community members. In our network we really define that as any member of the community who is willing to lift up the other members of that community. It’s more a state of mind and a state of willingness to constantly jump in, help out, make things better, and ask questions. 

Q: What is Democracy Prep’s model for building changemakers?

Duroseau: There are numerous aspects. We do a lot of it through our civics program, and a lot is built into the mindset of our educators. Through the civics program for example, we [engage a number of initiatives], but we have several iconic programs. The first is our Get Out The Vote initiative, which happens during elections, where we seek our scholars to talk about what an election is, why is democracy important, who are the candidates running, what do they stand for? And then ultimately who would you vote for and why? And after establishing that foundation, we think it's important for scholars to know what's going on before they take action. So we send them into the community, and we have them ask members of the community, not only to vote or register to vote - but also promise that they will participate in our democracy. This year, we had over 700 people pledge to vote in the general election. 

The second is our day of service. We believe so deeply in the importance of engagement in the community that we cancel classes for one day each year, and our staff and scholars go out into the community and engage in various projects for the day. That includes working in a soup kitchen, or doing work at a community garden, or it could involve performing for the elderly. It’s really about getting out into the community. This usually happens at the end of the year because we think of it as a Super Bowl of service engagement. We think that it's just important to demonstrate that there isn't a gap between our rhetoric and reality.

The third and final thing is through our Change the World project. That is a self elected issue in society that the scholars spend some time researching. They write a proposal, they write a research paper on that topic, and then they organize their own service project. And those sorts of initiatives look very different, some students will teach younger students about childhood obesity, some are looking at the political engagement of minorities. It’s a huge range of projects, and it really depends on whatever issues resonate with the scholar. And that is coupled with intense seminar, reading the work of changemakers, about changemakers, about the sociology of change, and what precipitates certain forms of activism.

Q: How is Democracy Prep different from other civics-based programs, such as democracy schools?

Duroseau: Where Democracy Prep is different is that we're really focused on preparing our scholars to be active participants in a democratic society. We don't live in ancient Greece where there is a direct democracy, so a lot of scholar's needs are 100% taken into account by our staff and they do have opportunities to have their voice heard. We're focused on what are some of the fundamental mindset, skills, of an engaged citizen, and we really focus more on can they ask the right questions? Do they know how to advocate for themselves? When a decision is made that they don't agree with, how do they go about bringing it up? Who do they speak to? How do they fill the coalition to bring about certain changes? Because we feel that's really what's going to help scholars really develop into people who, no matter what community they live in, there is a tool kit that they can draw from.

Q: Why do you call your students scholars?

Duroseau: We believe there is a distinction between a student and a scholar. A scholar has a deep commitment and love for learning. You'll go to some schools where they call them kids, and they'll call them students, they'll call them scholars - stuff we all do interchangeably. But for us, it is just a level of respect that we have for them, and their learning and their being.

Q: Do you find that the students at Democracy Prep call themselves scholars?

Duroseau: Yes, they do. 

Q: What difference does that make in terms of a young person’s attitude about themselves or about what they're doing in school?

Duroseau: Ultimately, I'm not necessarily sure that every child will have internalized, will truly understand the difference until they encounter people who maybe have had different educational experiences. But I do think that by calling our scholars ‘scholar,’ it reinforces what we say, the challenging work they do, and it shows a level of respect for them. You're not a person sitting in a chair being forced to learn, this is something that matters to us, to you, and to your community...This is an honor, and this is an opportunity for all parties.

Q: Who are the students at Democracy Prep?

Duroseau: It’s a broad range, but we operate at Title I schools, predominantly children of color. It's a pretty broad spectrum depending on region, so it could be Latino in one community, it could be heavily West African in another community. 

Q: What are the challenges that your students are facing in terms of civic engagement and feeling connected to what's going on now?

Duroseau: I think one of the biggest challenges is continuing to reinforce that the truth does exist, and helping our scholars understand that in order to arrive at the truth, it's really important for them to analyze both perspectives - especially perspectives that are not similar to their own, because it's somewhere in between where the truth can be found.

There's so much bias in the way that information is being presented to the public. They have to be able to ask: Can I verify where information is coming from? Can I identify bias in what people are saying? Is this something I agree with? What are the implications? It’s really about getting them to do that really high level of comprehensive thinking about what the impact of the facts may be and where it's coming from. Especially in the news, there's a level of complexity that we have not encountered in terms of the controversial nature of even some of the most basic forms of reporting.

Now more than ever, it's so important that we continue to help our scholars understand systems of structures in society so that there isn't this sense of powerlessness. What do you do when X policy is there? What do you do when you disagree with something that's going on, and you don't like it? Voting is one remedy. But what can you do in between elections to continue to advocate for whatever change you're looking for? I think it's really important for them to also understand direct action. What does that look like for you? Is it something you're comfortable doing? Is it what you want to be a part of? We're seeing now that direct action does play an important role in bringing about change.

How do you go through a traditional systems-based route? But when that doesn't work, and when you believe deeply in a cause, how are you going to continue fighting for whatever change you believe in? There's a John Lewis quote about the idea of good trouble and the angelic troublemaker. If there is a cause that you truly believe in, you may be told “no,” especially as a person of color in a society where there is so much structural racism. That poses many obstacles, but being full of “no” doesn't have to mean the end of the story if it's a cause that's really important to you.

We teach our scholars to be persistent, to understand that sometimes you'll get pushback. And that's when you reflect and ask, “Is this something that it's so important to me that I'm willing to face that pushback?” And if the answer is yes, you continue striving for change. When it's something that's really important, how do you make sure that your voice is heard?

Q: CivXNow is working on how to address diversity and equity in civic education. What can the Coalition learn from Democracy Prep?

Duroseau: I think it's about honoring and acknowledging people of color as people from various walks of life. Diversity is more than just race. It's diversity of us, diversity of position, opinions, sexual orientation, gender identity. But are we highlighting the people, who look like our scholars, who've walked the same path that our scholars have walked, and studied what is it that allows us to bring about change? What are the things that are universal for any changemaker? And specifically with people of color, how do you continue to advocate for change in a system that marginalizes you?

But it's understanding that there is a huge, civic education, civic opportunity gap, in terms of are we ensuring that they're having their voices heard? Do they understand what our suppression is? Do they understand their rights? When does it apply and when does not. No, if it's too much of a hassle to go vote because one doesn't know am I qualified? Can I, can I not? If we're teaching our kids K-12, you can vote.

It’s about building community, helping young people gain a level of self, of community so that they can advocate not only for their needs, but the needs of people like them or the people who are unlike them but who share the space. This connectedness is really important as we talk about civic education because ultimately it's rooted in a commitment to lifting up the people of a community.

Q: Any final thoughts?

Duroseau: I think it’s critical that the Coalition of educational institutions are really focused on empowering our young people to take the reins in a society where we're seeing so much opportunity and so many problems. It is an opportunity to really shape a more equitable future. We believe that our kids are the next generation of people who will lead that change. And so we're just really excited about joining the Coalition. It's not going to be one school or organization that can address the issue of civic education equity. I think it's going to be all of us collaborating, spinning off of each other, and pushing each other.

Share Insights from Democracy Prep on Social Media

“[We are] focused explicitly on developing active citizen-scholars....It’s more a state of mind and a state of willingness to constantly jump in, help out, make things better, and ask questions.” - @DemocracyPrep #CivXNow

“We cancel classes for one day each year, and [we] go out into the community and engage in various projects for the day...We think that it's just important to demonstrate that there isn't a gap between our rhetoric and reality.”
- @DemocracyPrep #CivXNow

“what are some of the fundamental mindset, skills, of an engaged citizen?...Because we feel that's really what's going to help scholars really develop into people who, no matter what community they live in, there is a tool kit that they can draw from.”
- @DemocracyPrep #CivXNow

“helping our scholars understand that, in order to arrive at the truth, it's really important for them 2 analyze both perspectives - especially perspectives that are not similar 2 their own, because it's somewhere in between where the truth can be found.” - @DemocracyPrep #CivXNow

“it's so important that we continue to help our scholars understand systems of structures in society so that there isn't this sense of powerlessness...Voting is one remedy. But what can you do in between elections to continue to advocate for change?” - @DemocracyPrep #CivXNow

“you may be told ‘no,’ especially as a person of color...but being full of ‘no’ doesn't have to mean the end of the story...We teach our scholars to be persistent...When it's something that's important, how do you make sure that your voice is heard?”
- @DemocracyPrep #CivXNow

“It’s about building community...This connectedness is really important as we talk about civic education because ultimately it's rooted in a commitment to lifting up the people of a community.” - @DemocracyPrep #CivXNow

“it’s critical that [CivXNow is] focused on empowering our young people to take the reins...It's not going to be one school or organization that can address the issue of civic ed's going to be all of us collaborating and pushing each other.”
- @DemocracyPrep #CivXNow
New York Civic Readiness Model 

Michael A. Rebell is the Executive Director of the Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College , Columbia University, New York. He is an experienced litigator in the field of education law, and he is also professor of law and educational practice at Teachers College and an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School. 

Professor Rebell was co-counsel for the plaintiffs in Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. (CFE) v. State of New York , a school funding "adequacy" lawsuit that claimed that the State of New York was not adequately funding public schools in New York City. Rebell argued the case three times before the New York Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, and won a major victory that established a constitutional right to the opportunity for a sound basic education for all students in New York State and has resulted in substantial funding increases. He is the author of six books, the latest of which is Flunking Democracy: Schools, Courts, and Civic Participation (U. of Chicago Press, 2018). 

In 2018, Professor Rebell was named Chair of the New York State Regents Civic Readiness Task Force , composed of 33 members from across the state, that was established to determine how best to promote civic preparation in public schools throughout the state. Prof. Rebell is also the driving force behind Cook v. Raimondo , a Federal suit filed in Rhode Island that argues the U.S. Constitution entitles all students to an education that prepares them to participate effectively in a democracy. The suit alleges that the state of Rhode Island is failing to provide tens of thousands of students throughout the state the necessary basic education and civic participation skills.

Q: Professor Rebell, you are playing an essential role in restoring and improving civic education in New York and - through the Rhode Island lawsuit - across the nation. What motivates you to be so engaged in this cause?

Rebell: My initial interest in civic education issues arose from the N.Y. Court of Appeals’ decision in the CFE case. The Court defined the constitutional right to a “sound basic education” in terms of a “meaningful” education that “prepares students to function productively as civic participants capable of voting and serving on a jury.” But when I looked around at what was going on in schools in our state a few years after that decision was issued, I realized that preparation for capable citizenship, the aspect of schooling that the Court held to be the schools’ most important function, was, in fact, the lowest priority in most schools.

I had a sabbatical from Columbia a couple of years ago, and I used that time to research this issue in depth. I came to understand the causes of the decline in civic education in recent decades, pedagogical approaches that could be effective if widely implemented, and the reasons why - given the current state of political polarization - wide-spread ignorance about constitutional values and challenges to the perpetuation of our democratic system, the civic mission of the schools is more important today than ever before.

Q: The Mission Statement of the New York Civic Readiness Task Force states, “Encourage students to believe in the power of their own voices and actions. Equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to engage responsibly in our culturally diverse democracy. Empower students to make informed decisions to enhance our interconnected world.” What steps is the Task Force taking to turn the worthy goals of that Mission Statement into reality for all New York K-12 students?

Rebell: The Task Force membership consists of approximately 30 teachers, administrators, researchers, advocates, representing diverse communities from throughout the state. We have undertaken extensive research and deliberations on a range of topics that resulted in the recommendations we made in four areas described below. 

In the course of our deliberations, we realized that developing effective state policies that would truly accomplish our mission, as stated above, would be a formidable undertaking that would require time and resources beyond the scope of the actual charge of the Task Force. We focused on the initial recommendations that we were able to develop this year, but realized that other critical issues - including media literacy, professional development, and assessment - needed extensive additional attention. 

A theme running throughout all of these issues is the question of equity. Many schools with large numbers of students in poverty simply do not have the staff and the resources needed to support students in carrying out the capstone and Seal projects that we recommended. I and many other members of the Task Force believe that the state needs to adopt serious policies and devote substantial resources to ensuring equity in access to civic preparation.

Fortunately, many of the major educational and civic organizations in New York State have joined together to form the DemocracyReady NY Coalition . Members of the Coalition have agreed to follow through on developing positions and taking advocacy stances on the additional civic issue areas - and especially on the needed equity agenda. So through the work of the Coalition, I believe that the challenging mission articulated in the Task Force’s mission statement will be continued and hopefully fully accomplished in the months and years to come.

Q: In January of this year, the Task Force made recommendations to the New York Board of Regents. What recommendations did the Task Force make and what is the thinking behind those recommendations? 

Rebell: We have submitted to the New York Regents a set of four recommendations. First is a very robust definition of “civic readiness” that - consistent with the Civic Mission of Schools: Guardian of Democracy Report - emphasizes the importance of civic knowledge, civic skills, civic mindsets, and civic experiences. Second, we recommended a very detailed set of procedures and guidelines for civic capstone projects for both high school and middle school students. Third was a procedure for awarding a Seal of Civic Readiness on graduation diplomas for students who have excelled in civic preparation activities, and our final recommendation was for a procedure to identify schools doing outstanding work in this area as “Civic Readiness Schools.” 

The Regents Committee on College, Career, and Civic Readiness unanimously endorsed the first three of these recommendations and deferred further consideration of the Civic Readiness Schools to the fall. The recommendations are now being sent out for public comment, and we expect them to be adopted in final form by the full Board of Regents and enshrined as official state policy in the late spring.

Q: One of the Task Force recommendations was to establish a Civic Readiness Capstone Project for New York High School students. Please describe what the proposed Capstone Projects would involve and why the Task Force believes that would enhance student civic readiness?

Rebell: In their Civic Readiness Capstone projects, we expect that students will: identify a civic issue (problem) facing them, their school, or their community; analyze a civic issue (problem), evaluate alternative solutions, design and/or execute a solution for this problem; take informed action to address the civic issue; reflect on what they have learned about their school or community from the Capstone project; make a presentation about their Civic Readiness Capstone project 

Our recommendations link each of these tasks to the specific civic knowledge, skills, mindsets, and experiences we set forth in our definition of Civic Readiness. Therefore, we believe that students who carry out these challenging projects will be developing each of the aspects of civic readiness that we consider to be important.

Q: The issue of when and how to meaningfully assess student attainment in civics is always a vexing one. We don’t want to add to the testing burden, but we also don’t want civics to be ‘left behind’ in prioritization of tested subjects. Has the Task Force dealt with the issue of assessment in civic education?

Rebell: I certainly agree that “what gets tested is what gets taught,” and that one of the reasons that civic preparation is a low priority in many schools is that civics is an area that has been neglected in most states’ testing regimes. Creating thoughtful, accurate assessment instruments that go well beyond the short answer quick tests that some states have now adopted is a critical task that, as indicated above, I expect our DemocracyReady NY Coalition to turn to in the near future.

Q: What challenges or obstacles has the Task Force faced in its work and in developing recommendations?

Rebell: The Regents and the State Education Department have been genuinely committed to this work and very supportive of our efforts. I have been very impressed with the fact that the Regents, several years ago, changed the stated outcome goals of education in the State of New York from “College and Career Ready” to College, Career, and Civically Ready” and that they created the Task Force to help them develop policies on Civic Readiness.

The biggest obstacle we have faced in carrying out this task, however, is lack of resources. The governor and the legislature have for years denied the Regents and the State Education Department (SED) sufficient resources for them to fully carry out their core responsibilities, and the Regents have been quite creative in obtaining assistance from committed groups and individuals like those on our Task Force to help them develop and implement policies. Although the Regents and SED officials understand and support our equity goals, they simply don’t have the resources to allow the Task Force to fully develop policies in this area, let alone to provide the necessary funding that schools in high-need areas need to implement these policies. That is why I am pleased that the groups and individuals in the DemocracyReady NY Coalition - who are in a position to advocate for effective, equitable policies and adequate resources with the governor and the legislature - have expressed their willingness to take on this challenge.

Q: What are the next steps for the Civic Readiness Task Force?

Rebell: We will work with the Regents and SED to help disseminate and implement the three policy recommendations we expect them to approve later this spring, but then I think the Task Force will go out of existence. As I stated above, the important work that remains to be done will then be picked up by the DemocracyReady NY Coalition.

Q: Turning to the Cook v. Raimondo lawsuit, what is the ‘theory behind your case,’ how does the Constitution entitle students to an education that allows them to effectively participate?
Rebell: In its 1973 decision in San Antonio Independent Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez , a case that focused on equity in school funding, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a close 5-4 decision that education is not a “fundamental interest” under the U.S. Constitution, essentially because education is nowhere mentioned in the federal constitution. 

Justice Thurgood Marshall, in a strong dissent, took issue with this position. He argued that even though education is nowhere mentioned directly in the federal constitution, education must be deemed a fundamental interest because of, “the close relationship between education and some of our most basic constitutional values.” Specifically, he stressed the importance of education for exercising First Amendment rights, “both as a source and as a receiver of information and ideas,” and the importance of education for exercising the constitutional right to vote and to participate in the political process. 

Justice Lewis Powell, writing for the majority, stated that, “[w]e need not dispute any of these propositions,” but because the plaintiffs in that case had focused on the funding issues, but not on civic preparation, the majority decided it did not need to confront the civic preparation issues in that case. 

I believe that the time is now ripe for the federal courts to decide the critical issue that Justice Marshall raised over 45 years ago and that the Court has left open for all these years. And that is why we have now filed a federal case to bring this issue to the fore.

Q: Why Rhode Island? We expect there are 49 other states that are failing to provide adequate civic education?

Rebell: Educators, parents, lawyers, and advocates in Rhode Island have been pressing for educational improvements for years and they were eager to have us file the case there. They have been frustrated by the failure of the state legislature and of the state courts to act to remedy blatant educational inadequacies. The shortcomings of the state’s education system provide many clear examples to the courts of why judicial action is needed to ensure that students are receiving a proper civic education. For example, Rhode Island students are not required to take even a single civics course; schools lack resources for extracurricular activities that prepare students for civic participation; and opportunities for English language learners throughout the state are especially limited.

Q: What is the status of the case?

Rebell: The Complaint was filed at the end of 2018. The Governor and the other state defendants then filed motions to dismiss the case, arguing - among other things - that the U.S. Supreme had already held in Rodriguez that there is no right to education under the federal constitution. We filed a lengthy reply brief substantiating the arguments raised by Justice Marshall, as well as a number of additional legal claims - for more details on the case and copies of the litigation papers, see .

Extensive oral argument on the state’s motion to dismiss took place before Hon. William E. Smith, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, on December 5, 2019. A decision is expected any time now. It is likely that whichever party does not prevail on this motion will then appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Your CivXNow Team

Our CivXNow team facilitates the publication of this newsletter.

In addition, we are supported by (and very grateful to) several members of the Coalition who - very generously - contribute their energy, time and guidance including: Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics , Mikva Challenge , PACE , McCormick Foundation , Tufts University , Citizen University , Ronald Reagan Foundation , JFK Library Foundation , ConSource , National Conference on Citizenship , Generation Citizen , and many many others who support individual projects.

This important work is generously funded with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York , The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation , and The Robert R. McCormick Foundation .


Louise Dubé
Executive Director
iCivics, Inc.
Cambridge, MA