Legislature continues support of We the People program

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Indiana’s We the People program, a civics education curriculum that teaches elementary, middle and high school students about U.S. history and government, has received another round of funding from the Statehouse.

The Indiana General Assembly included a $300,000 yearly appropriation for the program into the state’s biennial budget passed during the 2015 session. The money follows a pledge by Indiana Senate President David Long to ensure We the People would continue to receive state support.

Speaking at the Indiana We the People annual dinner in December 2014, Long, R-Fort Wayne, told the gathering of teachers and lawyers that a line would be included in the budget for the program.

Chuck Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation, praised Long’s commitment to the civics curriculum and his efforts in the Legislature. “We owe him a lot of gratitude for his work and support of the program,” he said.

The Indiana Bar Foundation administers the We the People program which involves an estimated 6,000 Hoosier students in elementary, middle and high schools across the state. Each year the students compete in Congressional-style hearings at the state level. Often, the winning Indiana teams have continued their success in the national competition.  

Legislators first approved funding for the program in the 2013-2014 state budget. The appropriation, which matched the current funding level of $300,000 per year, came after the federal dollars used to run the program were cut.

State funding is crucial, Dunlap said. The money has replaced what was lost in federal support and is helping the program in Indiana to grow and attract more students. With the state dollars, the bar foundation is able to hold state and district We the People competitions, offer professional development opportunities for teachers, and administer the program.

In addition, the bar foundation uses the money to provide the program’s textbooks from the Center for Civic Education. This year, Dunlap hopes to decrease book costs by switching from paperback to electronic versions.

A hardcopy set of classroom books for 30 students comes with a $600 price tag, but the e-book set is half that at $300. Dunlap hopes to use the savings to get We the People textbooks into more classrooms.

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