In a 39-0 bipartisan vote, the Massachusetts State Senate voted to increase funding for the Commonwealth’s Civics Project Trust Fund by 25% to provide more resources for state and local officials to work to bring civic education curriculum to students across Massachusetts. The vote helps restore a 25% cut in the Trust Fund voted in by the House in April.
To support the argument for more support for civics, a coalition of civic education organizations released Progress & Opportunity: Taking Stock of the 2018 Civic Education Law, and urged legislators to increase spending for the Civics Project Trust Fund in the Commonwealth’s FY24 budget.
As the budget process rolls on, the House’s FY24 budget passed a 25% decrease in the Civic Project Trust Fund from $2.0 million to $1.5 million. The Senate budget called for a 25% increase and funded the Trust Fund at $2.5 million. The two budgets now head to a Legislative Conference Committee to reconcile the difference. Thanks to the 16 Democratic and Republican Senators who signed on as co-sponsors – Senators Barrett, Creem, Eldridge, Feeney, Gobi, Keenan, Kennedy, Lewis, Lovely, Moran, O’Connor, Oliveira, Pacheco, Tarr, and Timilty.
The Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition, a 40+ member organization working to bring civic education to students in every school district in Massachusetts, has called on the Legislature to increase the Trust Fund to $2.5 million.
“Now is the time to increase funding for civic education and invest in our students. We need to prepare the next generation to protect and steward our democracy,” said Matt Wilson, Executive Director of Discovering Justice and Advocacy Chair for MCLC. “At a time when voting rates and civic engagement is mediocre at best, the Commonwealth needs to be investing in our youth to be civic leaders now and in the future.”
The legislative fight comes in the wake of a national study that shows civic education scores dropped for eighth graders and that just 22% scored at or above proficient level.
The Trust Fund, established in 2018 through the passage of the Civics Education Law, provides the resources for state education officials and grants for local school districts to build the civic education infrastructure needed to prepare students to engage in democratic action. Yet, since 2020, fewer than half of the grant proposals submitted by local school districts have received funding.
The Civic Project Trust Fund provides grants to local school districts to help them develop civics curriculum and provide professional development for teachers to teach the material. The Trust Fund also supports work by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on a statewide level to support civic education work.
Discovering Justice is a proud member of MCLC, a network of civic education organizations that formed to pass the 2018 Civic Education law and now works to support school districts and teachers and ensure implementation of the law.