Civics education cannot be reformed piecemeal. Proper civics education reform requires a larger reform of each state’s social studies curriculum, which includes civics education and history education as part of a larger, coherent whole. This larger reform should preserve what is valuable in each state’s existing laws, repeal laws that damage social studies instruction, and add new laws to strengthen civics and history education.
We have produced a Model K-12 Civics Code to cover the entire range of K-12 civics education legislation. We have based this Model Civics Code as much as possible on existing state laws, which we first gathered in our State Statutes webpage. It includes material on relatively uncontroversial material such as displaying the American flag—partly because existing legislation addresses such matters and partly because we fear such matters may soon become “controversial,” when they in turn become the target of radical activists. We also include recommendations for which state laws should be repealed in whole or in part. Our emphasis, however, is to provide civics education reformers in each state a coherent model for what civics education should be.
Five model bills remove discriminatory ideologies and action civics from public K-12 classrooms. The Partisanship Out of Civics Act is the most important bill in the entire Model K-12 Civics Code, because it removes discriminatory ideologies and action civics from social studies classes. Three other bills eliminate service-learning pedagogy entirely from public K-12 schools (Classroom Learning Act), prevent identity-politics distortions of the curriculum (Schools Nondiscrimination Act), and prevent public schools from grading students for their level of commitment to any value or attitude that requires assent to any philosophy or political framework (Values Assessment Act). Action Civics Repeal lists the state statutes that authorize action civics, service learning, project-based assessment, and community service, and which should be repealed.
School District Reform
Three model bills reform public school administration to ensure that education administrators comply with laws removing Critical Race Theory and action civics. These bills include a requirement to make publicly accessible both school documents (Academic Transparency Act) and school expenditures (Financial Transparency Act). They also prohibit school districts from doing business with contractors that discriminate by using Critical Race Theory policies (Contractor Nondiscrimination Act).
School Board Reform
Three model bills strengthen parental control over school boards by shifting school board election dates to the general election, ensuring that all voters are aware of the school board election (School Board Election Date Act), by establishing straightforward procedures by which to recall school board members (School Board Member Recall Act), and by making it easier to place new agenda items into school board business and to comment on existing business (School Board Agenda Act).
The Legislative Review Act gives the state legislature and the governor the power to veto a state academic standard proposed by the Education Department.
Social Studies Instruction
Seven model bills establish a framework for proper K-12 social studies instruction. The four most important bills include overall required social studies instruction (Social Studies Curriculum Act) and requirements for year-long high school courses in Civics (Civics Course Act), United States History (United States History Act), and Western Civilization (Western Civilization Act). Other bills include a requirement that students take a civics test as a graduation requirement (Civics Literacy Act), that social studies classes use the historical documents of liberty (Historical Documents Act), and that schools be permitted to offer nonsectarian instruction in the Bible, especially of its role in establishing America’s ideals of liberty (Religious Liberty Act).
Policymakers also should urge state education departments and local school districts to adopt American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards.
Six model bills establish the civic foundations of public K-12 schools. They declare that public K-12 schools have a civic function (Civic Intent Act), that they should continue to teach students about our country’s civic symbols (Flag Code Act, National Anthem Act, Document Display Act) and holidays (Special Observances Act), and that they should provide character instruction (Character Instruction Act).
Two model bills catalogue other existing civics education laws in the different states and say which should be repealed. Neutral Laws lists miscellaneous civics education laws that we neither oppose nor endorse, while Laws to be Repealed lists civics education laws that ought to be repealed.
Partisanship Out of Civics Act
The Partisanship Out of Civics Act prevents teachers from giving credit to action civics or any other sort of public policy advocacy in history, government, civics, or social studies. It also bars civics classes from using the discriminatory ideology at the heart of Critical Race Theory.
Classroom Learning Act
The Classroom Learning Act eliminates service-learning pedagogy from public K-12 schools.
Schools Nondiscrimination Act
The Schools Nondiscrimination Act mandates that no one should be either included or excluded from our nation’s content standards, curricula, trainings, textbooks, and other school materials on account of their race, sex, or other group identity. This model bill also lists the state statutes that require or facilitate the imposition of radical identity-group ideology on the curriculum, and which should be repealed.
Values Assessment Act
The Values Assessment Act prohibits public schools from assessing, rewarding, or punishing students, teachers, or administrators for their level of commitment to any value or attitude that requires assent to any philosophy or political framework.
Action Civics Repeal
Action Civics Repeal lists the state statutes that authorize action civics, service learning, project-based assessment, and community service, and which should be repealed.
Academic Transparency Act
The Academic Transparency Act requires public schools to publicize transparently every category of document relating to schools’ expenditures and procedures.
Financial Transparency Act
The Financial Transparency Act requires school districts to post immediately on a public website a transparent, detailed financial statement that itemizes all expenditures.
Contractor Nondiscrimination Act
The Contractor Nondiscrimination Act prohibits contractors for school districts from promoting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or other group identity.
School Board Election Date Act
The School Board Election Date Act shifts school board election dates to the same day as the general election, ensuring that all voters are aware of the school board election.
School Board Member Recall Act
The School Board Member Recall Act establishes straightforward procedures by which to recall school board members.
School Board Agenda Act
The School Board Agenda Act making it easier to place new agenda items into school board business and to comment on existing business.
Legislative Review Act
The Legislative Review Act requires all existing academic standards, and all forthcoming revisions, to be submitted to the state legislature and the governor for review and possible veto.
Social Studies Curriculum Act
The Social Studies Curriculum Act mandates K-12 instruction in Economics, State History, United States History, Civics, and Western Civilization.
Civics Course Act
The Civics Course Act mandates a year-long high school civics course, including requirements to study the primary documents of the American founding and bans on action civics and the components of Critical Race Theory.
United States History Act
The United States History Act mandates a year-long high school United States History course, including requirements to study the primary documents of American history and bans on action civics and the components of Critical Race Theory.
Western Civilization Act
The Western Civilization Act mandates a year-long high school Western Civilization course, including requirements to study the primary documents of Western Civilization and bans on action civics and the components of Critical Race Theory.
Civics Literacy Act
The Civics Literacy Act requires high school students, as a condition of graduation, to pass the U.S. Civics Test given to immigrants who wish to be naturalized.
Historical Documents Act
The Historical Documents Act mandates instruction in historical documents and the liberty to use historical documents.
Religious Liberty Act
The Religious Liberty Act authorizes a nonsectarian elective course in Bible Literacy and nonsectarian instruction in the Bible within other social science courses.
Civic Intent Act
The Civic Intent Act directs schools to craft curricula dedicated to the ideals of our constitutional republic, by means of patriotic rites, character instruction, knowledge of the documents of liberty, and instruction in American Government, United States History, and Western Civilization.
Flag Code Act
The Flag Code Act provides expectations for flag display, flag instruction, and the recitation of the pledge of allegiance. The Act grants students and teachers the liberty to refrain from taking part in the pledge of allegiance.
National Anthem Act
The National Anthem Act specifies expectations for learning and singing the national anthem, and for a program of instruction in its history and meaning. The Act grants students and teachers the liberty to refrain from taking part in the singing of the National Anthem.
Document Display Act
The Document Display Act directs that schools shall display documents such as the national motto and the Declaration of Independence and may display documents such as the Mayflower Compact and the State Constitution.
Special Observances Act
The Special Observances Act directs schools to provide programs of civic instruction keyed to ten patriotic holidays.
Character Instruction Act
The Character Instruction Act directs schools to provide a program of the character instruction necessary for civics education.
Neutral Laws catalogs miscellaneous laws dealing with civics instruction, which we neither oppose nor endorse.
Laws to be Repealed
Laws to be Repealed catalogs miscellaneous laws dealing with civics instruction, which should be repealed.
The National Association of Scholars, in consultation with other supporters and friends of the Civics Alliance, drafted these model bills to translate into legislative language the principles in the Civics Alliance’s Civics Curriculum Statement & Open Letter. Just as these bills have been drafted with the expectation that different states will modify them as they see fit, they also have been drafted with the expectation that not every supporter of the Civics Alliance will endorse these bills or every part of them. Individual Civics Alliance signatories and supporters should not be assumed to have endorsed these bills, unless they say so explicitly.