CIVICS FOR ALL AT CROSSROADS
CIVICS FOR ALL AT CROSSROADS – “CIVICS FOR ALL” IS NOW “CIVICS FOR SOME”
Last winter, the Seattle School Board considered a recommendation by the district’s K-12 social studies coordinator, Ms. Kathleen Vasquez, to implement approximately 75% of the Civics for All proposal. Instead of accepting the recommendation, they scaled it back to make mock elections optional for this 2016-2017 school year.
In one fell swoop, Civics for All became Civics for Some. While the development may be better than nothing, it also may serve as a block to achieving the goal of extending voter education lessons and experiences to ALL of SPS’s 53,000 students, not just some of them.
Equity and the struggle to end voter disenfranchisement among our students of color and low income populations demands that ALL students receive the same civics education – that was the goal of Civics for All. As of now, that is not happening.
Please contact your school board members and let them know you want universal Civics for All, not Civics for Some. Click here for those contacts.
Also, the board also authorized an optional civics education workshop, where approximately 35 teachers created civics lessons plans to be loaded onto the district Schoology site, and the creation of civics essential questions for K-5 students, under the leadership of the district’s K-12 social studies coordinator, Ms. Vasquez, who has formed a civics education partnership with King County Elections.
Civics for All’s centerpiece program, annual K-12 mock elections – funded with a $250,000, 5 year county grant – will enliven democratic practices & principles across schools and communities district-wide. Once implemented universally, at all schools, Seattle will become a model civics education city for the nation!
This streamlined, non-partisan policy proposal calls for increased media literacy and civics instruction in each grade of the social studies, district-wide voting in mock elections each November, and K-12 civics instructional awareness “across the curriculum” when efficacious.
Civics for All was “born” on June 15, 2011, when a dozen students of Web Hutchins, the initiative’s founder, presented this student-centered, teacher-friendly proposal to the Seattle Public Schools’ Board of Directors. Since then we have worked to convince the board and, especially, the Seattle School District administration to formally adopt and implement the Civics for All curricular frameworks.
School board support has grown tremendously over the years, pioneered by SB President Sharon Peaslee, Marty McClaren, and Sue Peters.
Current School Board Directors Supporting CFA (Feb. 2015)
- Sue Peters, Seattle School Board Director, District 4
- Leslie Harris, Seattle School Board Dir., District 6
- Jill Geary, Seattle School Board Dir., District 3
- Rick Burke, Seattle School Board Dir., District 2
- Scott Pinkham, Seattle School Board Dir., District 1
- Betty Patu, Seattle School Board Dir., District 5
- Stefan Blanford, Seattle School Board Dir., District 7
Also, many of the other leading candidates in the 2015 fall school board race declared their support for Civics for All, including Lauren McGuire and Michael Christophersen.
This is great news because since 2011, district leadership (Superintendents Enfield/Banda/Nyland) has shown uneven interest in adopting the Civics for All proposal, despite the overwhelming support across the city, in all of our legislative bodies (both city and state level delegations), from civics experts around the country, and elsewhere. The school board, ideally with unanimous support including the votes of directors Patu and Blanford, is best situated to convince district staff to adopt the proposal so that all of SPS’s 53,000 students learn the levers of democracy. As Diana Hess, a former UW Husky and now preeminent national civics voice and dean of the U. of Wisconsin College of Education writes: Should Schools Teach Students to Vote? YES!
We need your help in convincing them that providing our students a quality civics-based program is the right thing to do! Please Get Involved and help convince all of our school board members, Superintendent Nyland and JSCEE staff to support Civics for All adoption in time for the 2016 election.
If Seattle Public Schools does not adopt the proposal it risks losing our year and a half old $250,000 grant from King County Elections via the King County Council , which endorsed Civics for All in tandem, unanimous “Resolutions of Support for the Civics for All Initiative” with the the Seattle City Council on March 17, 2014.
Civics for All is “Civics in the Core” because civics studies align so smoothly with the coming Common Core State Standards‘ emphasis on distilling argumentative claims from non-fiction texts. Civics for All aligns directly with and will facilitate student success on the “New SAT,” which emphasizes America’s founding documents and current events analysis for the first time in the history of the test. Civics for All, featured in the April 2012 edition of Educational Leadership magazine, proposes that citizenship education is a fundamental student right that is central to our schools’ purpose. To restore this neglected right is a civic imperative that is being proudly embraced across Seattle!
Civics for All emphasis on equity for ALL students dovetails with the civic spirit of so many developments around Seattle, including the Pre-K education initiative as well as Mayor Ed Murray’s recently penned Executive Order reaffirming the City’s commitment to the Race and Social Justice Initiative.
Support has been tremendous! Peter Levine, a Tufts University professor who is the nation’s preeminent civics educator , the author of six books on civics and the executive director of CIRCLE, The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, has written endorsement letters to Superintendent Banda and Mayor Murray. See our complete list of Supporters here.
Citizens seem most excited by the Initiative’s proposed city-wide mock elections in which 50,000 scholar citizens will annually participate in democracy’s most sacred act: VOTING! Research by CIRCLE “shows emphasizing elections in civics classes has a (long-term) positive impact on political knowledge and voting.” If Superintendent Banda endorses the Initiative, King County Elections and the Secretary of State’s office have both committed to helping facilitate a student-friendly experience, with KCE providing customized, age-appropriate voter’s pamphlets, ballots,and voter registration materials and SOS providing on-line voting and detailed statistical voting analysis. Abundant research proves that when we teach youth the civic values, habits, and skills of citizenship they vote at much higher rates and tend to become voters for life.
The Plano Texas School District began doing doing mock elections across their city in 2008. Check out the Plano student voting experience here.
Just picture it: Seattle’s civic life will POP each fall as 50,000 students from 97 schools select candidates and choose sides within their families on the issues, ideas, and initiatives of the day! Doing so will help ALL Seattle 18 year olds respond with a resounding “YES” to the the New York Times recent query: “When You Are Old Enough to Vote, Will You?”
Amazing Legislative Supporters and Others
On March 17, 2014, the Seattle City Council and King County Council both unanimously voted to adopt and issue co-Resolutions of Support for the Civics for All Initiative. KCC Chair Larry Phillips and SCC members Bruce Harrell and Nick Licata sponsored the resolutions. Also supporting the proposal: numerous Washington State Legislators, including Eric Pettigrew, Sharon Tomiko-Santos, Reuven Carlyle, Adam Kline, Bob Hasegawa, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and Eileen Cody; numerous Secretary of State staff, including Sec. Kim Wyman and former Sec. Sam Reed; leading education professors from Seattle U., the UW, UVA, and Stanford; organizations like CityClub; and teachers and citizens from all around the district and city.