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2016 Talking Points for your Hill Visits

Introduce yourself:

  • Who are you and why do you care about teaching subjects essential to citizenship development?  (Note: in many offices, it is better to talk about “civics, economics, geography and history” than to use the term “social studies” when describing the academic content.  Many offices aren’t certain what “social studies” means, or have negative associations with the term.)

Explain the importance of teaching civics, economics, geography, history, and what is happening in these subjects in your state:

  • Civics, economics, geography, history prepare students to be informed participants in democracy
  • Beyond that, these subjects teach the critical thinking and inferential thinking that has been the hallmark of American education, and is so important to employers and to maintaining American economic competitiveness in the global economy
  • (You can give examples of 21st century skills that are taught in these disciplines if you have some examples that will be appealing in the office you are meeting with.)
  • Teaching of civics, economics, geography and history is being squeezed out of the curriculum by subjects such as language arts and math that schools are evaluated on, and penalized if students don’t show adequate progress
  • (What is happening to teaching of these subjects in your state?)
  • We were pleased to see strong support for teaching civics, economics, geography and history in the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act. (ESSA).
  • We know that no one size fits all in education.  Local school districts need to have options and support in choosing the approach that works best for their students.  That’s why it’s important to have a menu of effective practices that improve teaching of civics, geography and history, and let communities select the approach that works best for their students
  • The Every Student Succeeds Act authorized:
    • competitive grants to support intensive summer teacher and student academies to immerse themselves in American history and civics; and
    • grants to nonprofit organizations to develop innovative, engaging approaches to teaching history, civics and geography, particularly in underserved communities.  Schools will be able to examine these validated approaches and voluntarily select those that best meet the needs of their students and communities.
  • These grants need to be funded in FY 2017.  The total is small – less than $8 million for both competitive grants in 2017 – but it could make a big difference to rural and urban schools and students.
  • LEAs can also choose to use funds from the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants to teach civics, economics, geography and history.
  • Schools won’t know how to plan for September unless there is a 2017 appropriations bill soon.  A continuing resolution spends the same amount of money, but doesn’t change budgets to reflect ESSA.   
  • We are eager to see ESSA receive the funding to be implemented properly. Without funding, grants won’t be available to foster effective instruction in history, civics, geography, and economics.

Conclusion:

  • We would like to work with your office to help elevate the importance of teaching civics, economics, geography and history.  Is this something you think the (Senator/Representative) would like to work with us on?
  • How can we be most helpful to your office when you are considering questions of education policy?
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