You’d be hard-pressed to find an issue that will garner any bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., nowadays, but there’s one area where Republicans and Democrats are successfully forging common ground: improving civics education.
In classrooms across the nation, chronic underinvestment in civics education has left students unprepared to live out one of our country’s central ideals: the opportunity to participate fully in a free democracy. In 2019, the federal government spent an average of $54 per school child on STEM education.
The average spending for civics? Five cents. (Yes, you read that right.)
Fortunately, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize the necessity — and urgency — of robust civics education in our classrooms. Last month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Civics Secures Democracy Act (CSDA). This comprehensive piece of legislation would provide a $1 billion annual investment in it at the local level.
I was delighted to see that Oklahoma’s own Sen. Jim Inhofe cosponsored the act. As a leader in the civics education field here in Oklahoma, It is impossible to state just how much of a game-changer this would be for Oklahoma schools, especially those in rural areas.
“… too often, students aren’t taught about the Constitution, its history or its principles. That’s why I am proud to introduce the Civics Secures Democracy Act, which incorporates my CIVICS Act, alongside Sens. Cornyn and Coons, to expand civics education,” Sen. Inhofe said of the legislation. “We must do all we can to encourage more young Americans to be active participants in our democracy by communicating with their elected officials, engaging in advocacy and, when eligible, voting in state, local and federal elections.”
In February, Sen. Inhofe announced he would be resigning his seat at the end of this session, marking an end to his nearly three decades of service in the Senate. Making the act a priority would clearly define Sen. Inhofe’s legacy as a champion of the high-quality civic education that future generations of Oklahomans need to appreciate and nurture our democracy. His leadership matters and makes a difference on this bill.
I strongly encourage Oklahoma’s other senator, James Lankford, to join Sen. Inhofe in his support for the act. Without robust investment in young people’s civics education, future generations of Oklahomans may grow up not fully understanding or recognizing the valuable benefits of our democracy that past generations fought — and died — to secure for us.
Amy Curran is Oklahoma executive director of Generation Citizen.