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Jeff Brandes’ ‘Freedom Schools’ bill teed up for two committees

The bill seeks to improve civics education in high schools.

Sen. Jeff Brandes‘ civics education bill is likely to move swiftly through the Senate this year.

The bill (SB 146) 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.

It was assigned to just two committees — Education and Appropriations. Typically bills head to three committees before they can be teed up for a floor vote.

The bill would give students the opportunity to supplement U.S. Government education through community service and real-life problem solving.

It 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.”

It’s similar to legislation filed last year (SB 918 and HB 581) by Brandes and Rep. Ben Diamond. Brandes’ bill cleared the Senate and Diamond’s passed all three of its committee stops, however the House bill failed to get a hearing on the floor and the measure died.

So far, companion legislation has not been filed in the House, but Diamond advocated for it in the previous Legislative Session.

“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 when he filed the bill last year. “This bill will help our students develop the skills they need to be active participants in the future of our communities.”

“Students have traditionally learned civics through textbooks and class discussions. 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.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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