Senate Passes Bill to Promote Civics Education, Including Measures Championed by Senator Lesser

Senate also passed bill promoting financial literacy in schools

BOSTON — The State Senate voted on Thursday to pass a bill promoting civics education, including measures that had been sponsored by State Senator Eric P. Lesser.

The bill, S. 2355, An Act to promote and enhance civic engagement, directs the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to ensure that all public schools provide instruction in American history, civics and media literacy, including participation in a civics project that will be a requirement for graduating high school.

The bill also creates a Civics Project Trust Fund and authorizes funding to support civics education projects in schools throughout Massachusetts.

“Civics and news media literacy are critical in an era when we are bombarded by an unprecedented flow of information, from articles to opinions to breaking news and fake news, all delivered to devices in our pockets. As fast as information moves, too many people — especially young people — have felt for too long that our government is not responsive enough, that our politics are not about solving big challenges anymore. Civics education gives people the tools they need to feel empowered and to make a difference,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser.

According to research conducted at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, students who recalled memorable civic education experiences were more likely to vote, to form political opinions and to know campaign issues. Researchers also found that civics education does not lead students to favor one party over another.

Also on Thursday, the Senate passed S. 2343, An Act relative to financial literacy in schools, which also included measures Sen. Lesser had introduced this session.

The bill establishes standards for students from kindergarten to grade 12 to learn about loans and interest, credit card debt, rights and responsibilities of buying a home, balancing a checkbook, state and federal taxes, and planning for retirement. The topics can be incorporated into existing mathematics, social studies or other class curricula.

“A lack of financial and civics knowledge was one of the primary complaints we heard from young people during our Millennial roundtable discussions,” said Sen. Lesser, referencing the conversations Senators held with young people across the state in 2016. “Balancing a checkbook, building credit, using credit cards wisely and planning for retirement are all important tools for managing your finances and preparing for your future — especially when you have to factor in student loans. Our young people need to be prepared for these rites of passage.”

Both bills now go to the State House of Representatives for consideration.

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Press ReleaseEric Lesser