After civic scores declined for the first time in over 25 years, a charitable foundation determined to grant a new national civics initiative $4.5 million to help address the crisis.
The National Civics Bee program, started last year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (CCF), is receiving the boost from The Daniels Fund, a foundation established by cable television pioneer Bill Daniels.
“The National Civics Bee is a national movement that brings together parents, educators, business owners, public officials, and community leaders to make civics education a priority for America’s children,” Hilary Crow, vice president of civics at CCF, told The Lion. “Our goal is to have a National Civics Bee competition in every state by 2026.”
The grant comes after the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation’s Report Card, this year found only 22% of 8th grade students are proficient in civics. It is one of the reasons why CCF began the competition.
The Daniels Fund notes that these scores show a decline “for the first time since the federal government began testing eighth graders in 1998. Nearly 80% of students are not proficient in civics, proving a growing need for civics education initiatives such as the National Civics Bee.”
This year, middle school students competed in over 50 cities in nine states for a chance to advance to the national competition. Over 2,000 students have competed since the competition began last year, CCF shared.
The plan is to grow the Bee to all 50 states and host a national championship in 2026. For 2024, the competition is growing to 30 states.
The Civics Bee begins with a local-essay competition hosted by local chambers of commerce around the country, then the top 20 students move onto the state competition. Next year will be the first chance for state winners to move on to a national competition.
In a promotional video, CCF notes 47% of Americans “can’t name all three branches of government” and 52% of “young people think democracy has failed or is in trouble.”
CCF hopes that through the competition, students will be “better informed about American democracy, to engage respectfully and constructively in the community, and to build greater trust in others and institutions.”