Policy Considerations for the California Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools

Article excerpt

"No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. "

Kofi Annan,

United Nations Secretary-General

The California Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools takes secretary Annan's statement to heart in its efforts to improve civic education in California. In 2004 a group of concerned California individuals and organizations convened by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, in collaboration with the Center for Civic Education (both California non-partisan, non-profit educational organizations), met to discuss how they could strengthen civic education in California schools.

During the early days of this effort, the Campaign organized committees to focus on key areas: Policy, Best Practices, School Demonstration Sites, Youth Voice and Research, and Outreach.

The Policy Committee established seven broad goals: 1) seek written support for the Campaign's mission from various key educational institutions/associations and community groups, 2) secure a joint legislative resolution endorsing the importance of the Campaign and the six recommendations of the Carnegie/CIRCLE Civic Mission of Schools report, 3) seek a state appropriation of funds to create a civic education staff development program, 4) seek language in the K-8 Reading/Language Arts/ English Language Development textbook adoption criteria that supported the using of expository text that highlighted history-social science (emphasis on civics), 5) create a statewide incentive program to recognize/reward programs of excellence, 6) suggest ways to incorporate more history-social science (emphasis on civics) in the re-authorization of NCLB, and 7) propose four regional legislative hearings on "Are we preparing California youth to be engaged citizens?"

Goal One

Endorsements

Early in the Campaign, the Co-Chairs; Gary Hart (former State Senator and secretary of Education), David Gordon (Superintendent of Sacramento County Office of Education) and Darline Robles (Superintendent of Los Angeles County Office of Education) and the Steering Committee sought endorsements from many educational institutions/associations, individuals and community groups. The first endorsement was from Jack O'Connell the current California Superintendent for Public Instruction. As a former government teacher he hardily signed on as a strong supporter of the Campaign. In addition many other groups including the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, California PTA, California School Boards Association, the Association of California School Administrators, and the California Council of the Social Studies have endorsed the campaign.

Goal Two

Legislative Resolutions

The second goal was to secure a joint legislative resolution endorsing the importance of the Campaign and the six recommendations of the Carnegie/CIRCLE Civic Mission of Schools Report. This would increase understanding of the need, help identify supporters of the Campaign, and broaden awareness. Once draft, circulated, revised and approved by the Campaign coalition, Michael Hulsizer (who handles legislative matters at the Kern County Office of Education) recruited Kevin McCarthy (Assemblyman from 32nd District-Bakersfield) as the sponsor. Due to their efforts, the legislature adopted and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Concurrent Resolution # 30 in July 2005. see Figure 1 for the complete text of the resolution.

Currently many school districts, county offices of education, and various organizations have passed similar resolutions. To see local examples, please visit the Policy section on the California Campaign's website: www.cms-ca.org/policy.htm.

Goal Three

Professional Development

As a third goal, the Campaign decided to seek a state appropriation of funds to create a civic education staff development initiative in the form of a grants program managed by the California Department of Education through its History-Social Science office. …