Generation Citizen celebrates Utah’s enactment of pioneering civic engagement program pilot

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert exercises national leadership on civics education by signing HB 334 into law, authorizing a three-year, pilot civic engagement program calling for project-based civics, service learning, and local innovation

SALT LAKE CITY, UT ―  On March 30, 2020, Governor Gary Herbert took a bold, transformative step forward on behalf of the civics education of Utah’s students by signing HB 334 into law. HB 344 marks a new, national standard for experiential civic learning pilots by providing more than $400,000 in state-level funding, including operational costs handled at the state-level, for teacher professional development, evaluation design, and district support to implement project-based civics in at least three participating districts, or local educational agencies (LEAs). 

Specifically, the law advances Utah’s enduring commitments to character and civics education by:

  • Implementing a three-year civic engagement pilot program, intended to evaluate the benefits of, and methods for, implementing a civic engagement project requirement for high school graduation.
  • Selecting participating LEAs from diverse geographic areas, with varying student population sizes
  • Providing support for teacher training and professional development.
  • Requiring the Utah State Board of Education to report the pilot program’s results to the Education Interim Committee.

“The enactment of HB 334 is the culmination of a collaborative, bipartisan process of lawmakers, citizens, administrators, and teachers calling for an unprecedented commitment to character and civic education,” says Rep. Daniel Johnson, R-Logan, sponsor of HB 334. “Establishing a civic engagement pilot program ensures that Utah will continue to chart a new path in catalyzing experiential civic learning, catalyzing local innovation, and preparing students for lifelong citizenship in our state and the nation.”

“We are incredibly excited and grateful that Gov. Herbert, Rep. Johnson, the Utah legislature, and a cross-section of teachers, district leaders, and community groups has prioritized civics education through this innovative pilot program. This is a moment in which the importance of government, and civic engagement, cannot be understated, and Utah is taking a leadership role in elevating the role of our school system in cultivating the next generation of citizens. States across the country will pay attention to Utah’s example” said Scott Warren, co-founder and CEO, Generation Citizen. 

Utah’s enactment of HB 334, amid the wake of COVID-19, points to the ongoing significance of experiential civic learning and character education in the midst of the most profound public health crisis that we have ever seen. In moments like these, ensuring that our students are prepared to knowledgeably and effectively engage in democratic process feels especially poignant”, said Andrew Wilkes, Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy, Generation Citizen

“HB 334 is a solid step in the right direction, ensuring that Utah’s students can gain access to project-based civics, teachers can receive professional development support, and our state can invest in the long-term civic engagement of our young people. Democracy is not for spectators”, said Jeanine Kuhn-Coker, Utah Civics Coalition member.

HB 334 continues Utah’s trajectory towards ensuring that all of its students are prepared for lifelong civic engagement through hands-on civic learning that builds on and speaks to the lived experiences of young people, their families, and communities. By codifying a multi-year civic engagement pilot program into law, Utah has established a national reference point for other states looking to identify bold, scalable approaches to project-based civics. 

Utah’s civic law builds on, and deepens, the legislative momentum of states like Illinois, Massachusetts, and Florida by ensuring that students—in districts of varying sizes and regions of the state—can receive a project-based civics education that prepares them for cornerstone activities of our democracy such as voting, serving on juries, and community service.