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Thursday, May 23, 2024

UF and the University of Central Florida have teamed up to improve civic and government education in the state's middle schools.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham from Florida and former U.S. Congressman Lou Frey revealed plans to unite UF's Bob Graham Center for Public Service and UCF's Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government in an effort to promote civic education in Florida.

Walter Rosenbaum, interim director of the Graham Center at UF, said the joint effort would create workshops to offer new curriculum materials and provide local government internships for teachers.

"The teachers are going to go to school," Rosenbaum said.

The program would also encourage Florida universities to offer classes on civics and government to teachers, he said.

Most colleges of education don't require students working toward a career in civic education to take a course on the subject, he added.

Gov. Charlie Crist accompanied Graham and Frey at the Tallahassee conference and offered his support for the collaborative effort, deemed the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship.

Crist said $3.4 million of his newly announced budget proposal would go toward improving civic education.

The Florida Legislature must approve his funding suggestions.

Rosenbaum said students in Florida receive little to no civic education in middle and high school, and test scores reflect that.

"Our students in Florida don't even score as well as students in other states," Rosenbaum said. "This has not been a secret."

Civic education isn't included in the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or the FCAT, he said.

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The Florida Legislature passed a law two years ago requiring civic education for at least a semester in middle school, but most teachers are hardly qualified to educate students on the subject, he said.

Most schools don't require a teacher to have adequate preparation before teaching civics to students, Rosenbaum said.

If a candidate is available and willing to take the job, he or she is hired.

Doug Dobson, director of the Frey Institute, said the Helios Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves Florida and Arizona, gave the joint program its jumpstart with a $556,466 donation.

The program would place more emphasis on state and local government, Dobson said.

Most civic education focuses on national government, he said.

It's important to learn about the laws that govern the United States, he said.

But he added that state and local government should receive equal attention in the classroom.

"We spend our lives in communities of local government," Dobson said.

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