Securing the Future of Our Democracy: Preparing ALL Students for Civic Participation

vote gen 3The Center for Educational Equity (CEE) at Teachers College (TC), Columbia University, celebrated election day by announcing the launch of our educational-rights initiative focused on strengthening students’ preparation for civic participation.

Through our new initiative, CEE will work with TC colleagues, educators, parents and students, and other leaders in the field to:

  • fill critical knowledge gaps through research;
  • develop legal strategies;
  • engage the public; and
  • build a coalition to advance a common policy agenda.

Preparing students for their important civic responsibilities as members of a democracy has historically been an essential role of schools in the United States. In most states, preparation for civic participation is also central to the right to education afforded by the state constitution.

In New York, the state’s highest court ruled in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) case that the state government has a constitutional obligation to provide all students “the opportunity for a sound basic education” that prepares them for productive civic participation and competitive employment. This means every school must be equipped to help all students develop the knowledge, skills, and habits they need to be effective civic participants when they graduate from high school.

As co-counsel for CFE, Michael A. Rebell, presently TC professor of law and educational practice and CEE executive director, led a statewide coalition that fought hard to win this right. Over the past year, CEE has been closely analyzing the substantial gaps in civic preparation that exist in schools here and nationwide. Rebell has written a book, Flunking Democracy: Schools, Courts and Civic Preparation (U. of Chicago Press, forthcoming, 2018), that examines these issues in detail.

The current state of civic life and our democratic institutions has generated great interest in this topic. For example, the New York State Education Department recently signaled the state’s commitment to preparing students for civic participation by including a “college, career and civic readiness index” concept in its Every Student Succeeds Act plan. We would like to see New York lead the way in equipping young people to strengthen our democracy.

CEE’s new initiative will help ensure that all students — particularly students living in poverty and those of color— have the opportunity to become effective civic participants.

Learn more and support our Securing the Future of Our Democracy civic-preparation initiative here.

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