Legislation that could encourage students to become more engaged in their communities sailed through the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Thursday.
Sen. Jeff Brandes’ bill (SB 918) would create a high school civics 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.
The vote in the bill’s second committee stop was unanimous. The House companion bill (HB 581,) sponsored by Rep. Ben Diamond, is currently scheduled for a House vote after making it through all of its committee hearings.
The bills address a problem in Florida. U.S. Census Bureau data shows Florida is one of the least civically active states in the nation, ranking near the bottom nationwide in voter turnout in local elections as well as through attendance at public meetings or in membership in civic groups.
“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 last year. “This bill will help our students develop the skills they need to be active participants in the future of our communities.”
Community service hours completed through the proposed U.S. Government project could be applied toward students’ eligibility for the Bright Futures Scholarship.
The legislation would also allow participating schools to be designated “Freedom Schools.”
“Students have traditionally learned civics through textbooks and class discussions,” Diamond said last year. “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.”
Brandes’ bill will now go to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Janelle Irwin Taylor contributed to this report.