WASHINGTON – In time to commemorate the country’s independence, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) have introduced legislation to reauthorize and modernize an American history and civics grant program under the Higher Education Act. 

The USA Civics Act would authorize grants to colleges or university-nonprofit partnerships that promote knowledge of American political thought and history, free institutions, democracy, or means of participation in political and civic life. Funds must be used to support centers or programs pursuing that work, teacher preparation initiatives aligned to those topics, and other outreach activities. Grants from the USA Civics Act could also be used to partner with nonprofit organizations or government humanities programs, develop open educational resources, or pursue other activities consistent with the purposes of the bill. The modernized text also ensures that researchers and educators funded through the grant have the academic freedom necessary to the robust study of American history and political life. 

“Civic engagement lies at the heart of our democratic process,” said Senator Coons. “We are living in one of the most polarized chapters of our country’s history, which makes it more important than ever to offer our future leaders robust opportunities to deepen both their knowledge of our institutions and their skills in participating in democratic discourse and advocacy. I am proud to partner with Senator Cornyn on this bipartisan effort to support scholarship on civics, the preparation of civics educators, and the training of a new generation of active citizens.” 

“Learning about America’s rich history and what makes our political process unique is essential to preserving democracy,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation would promote civics education in schools and universities and support teachers as they inspire young Texans to be engaged citizens.” 

The USA Civics Act has been endorsed by the American Council on Education and the Center for Civic Education.  

Perspectives on the USA Civics Act:

“On the behalf of the Center for Civic Education I would like to express support for the USA Civics Act and commend Senator Chris Coons and Senator John Cornyn for its introduction. This legislation will provide much needed support for the enhancement of civic education in higher education as well as meet the pressing need to prepare teachers at elementary and secondary levels to provide their students sound instruction in the history and contemporary relevance of American political thought and its impact of their everyday lives. We need to develop enlightened and responsible participation in our political system and the best way to do this is through effective civic education.”

Charles N. Quigley, Executive Director of the Center for Civic Education 

“As the Director of the Biden School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Delaware, I strongly encourage the Senate to support the USA Civics Act—American Civics Education (ACE) grant program.  Support for the ACE Program ensures that the next generation of elected officials, change makers, and future public leaders are empowered to continue protecting our history and democracy.”

Maria P. Aristigueta, Director, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration, University of Delaware. Full letter available here.