Maggie Stern’s Testimony on SB 2026 on behalf of the Children’s Defense Fund of Texas

Testimony on SB 2026, April 8,2021,

Prepared by: Maggie Stern, Youth Civic Education and Engagement Coordinator

On behalf of: The Children’s Defense Fund of Texas

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. My name is Maggie Stern and I am here today to testify on SB 2026, representing the Texas office of the Children’s Defense Fund. We are a nonpartisan policy advocacy & child welfare organization that works to uplift the voices of Texas children and youth, and we are asking this committee to consider elements of several bills with bipartisan support that promote comprehensive civic education for all Texas students.

We often hear statistics like only half of American adults can name all three branches of government – reflecting a lack of civic knowledge highlighted by this bill. But what is equally if not more concerning is when students can’t apply that knowledge to their own lives – reflecting a need for strengthened civic skills, attitudes, and behaviors that are included in several other filed bills.

Comprehensive civics education demands that civic knowledge is taught alongside the skills, attitudes, and behaviors that enable young Texans to become thoughtful, lifelong, and active civic participants. The problem is not that young people are apathetic. In fact, we should all celebrate that 80% of young people agree that they have a responsibility to be civically engaged. That’s an incredible sign of civic strength from young people, but like any other skill, students need a chance to practice it, as provided for in HB 57 and SB 229.

Comprehensive civics education demands that we recognize that 69% of our Texas children are children of color, and that students of all races deserve an education that highlights the work of diverse civic heroes who have fought to fulfill the promise of a more perfect union. To that end, we have included a selection of primary sources that could equally be considered founding documents.

Comprehensive civics education demands that we invest in training so that teachers are ready to facilitate discussions, promote media literacy, and simulate democratic processes. Texas civic educators are asking for provisions like those included in bills like HB 3211 and SB 1740.

There is broad, bipartisan support for a civics bill that combines all of these pieces to teach the full picture of American history and prepare young Texans to be lifelong civic leaders. We ask this committee to expand on SB 2026 to pass comprehensive and bipartisan civics education.