The House has passed the Senate’s Civics Education bill that would encourage civics engagement among high school students.
The House unanimously passed the Senate’s version (SB 146) after amending it with a clarification during floor discussions Wednesday. The measure will head back to the Senate for senators to approve that amendment.
Rep. Ben Diamond, sponsored the House companion bill (HB 611).
“We do have our disagreements on policy sometimes, but I think we all agree on the importance of young people having an opportunity to learn how government works,” Diamond said. “Hopefully it can restore some of the problems we’re having now in our political discourse.”
The bill would require civics education for high schoolers and create an option for school districts to include a nonpartisan civic literacy project through U.S. government curriculum. That project would require students to identify an issue or problem in the community, research the problem, and develop strategies to address it.
“This legislation was inspired by some great work that students in Pinellas County have done as part of their high school social studies and civics classes. And this bill was the result of a three-year process,” Diamond explained.
The bill would give students the opportunity to supplement U.S. government education through community service and real-life problem solving. Community service hours completed through the proposed project could be applied toward students’ eligibility for the Bright Futures Scholarship.
The legislation would also allow participating schools to be designated “Freedom Schools.”
The bills seek to address a problem highlighted in Florida. U.S. Census Bureau data that shows Florida is one of the least civically engaged 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 to civic groups.
The bill will soon head to the Governor’s desk. Gov. Ron DeSantis has indicated support for increased civics education. He said he supports “high-quality” civics education, under the direction of the Department of Education. In his budget, DeSantis proposed $16.5 million to add training for school principals to elevate civics education in schools. They would be helped by “regional civics coaches.” Another $6.5 million would be allocated to a career pathways program, which DeSantis described as “public service incubators.”
In mid-March at a press conference, DeSantis described how he sees civics education, saying it would include “foundational concepts with the best materials” that exclude “critical race theory.” He said “teaching kids to hate their country and hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.”