Rep. Ben Diamond filed legislation Thursday that aims to improve civics education in Florida high schools. The goal is to increase citizen engagement.
The bill would establish an option for school districts to include a nonpartisan civic literacy project through their U.S. Government curriculum. That project would require students to identify an issue or problem in their community, research the problem and then develop strategies to address it.
The bill (HB 581) would give students the opportunity to supplement U.S. Government education through community service and real-life problem solving.
“Students have traditionally learned civics through textbooks and class discussions,” Diamond said. “Our bill is designed to supplement that work with real-world problem solving. By applying what has been taught in the classroom to issues that exist in the real world, students gain a greater understanding of how to solve problems in their community.”
The bill addresses a problem in Florida. The state is one of the least civically active in the nation and ranks near the bottom nationwide in voter turnout in local elections as well as through attendance at public meetings or in membership through civic groups, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Community service hours completed through the proposed U.S. Government project could be applied toward students’ eligibility for the Bright Futures Scholarship.
The bill would also allow participating schools to be designated “Freedom Schools.”
“Civic participation is fundamental to our American way of life, and our education system plays a central role in preparing young people to become informed and engaged citizens,” Diamond said. “This bill will help our students develop the skills they need to be active participants in the future of our communities.”
Rep. Vance Aloupis is the prime co-sponsor of the bill in the Florida House and Sen. Jeff Brandes is filing companion legislation in the Senate.