New law requires NJ middle schools to teach about voting

MIDDLETOWN, New Jersey (WABC) -- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Friday legislation requiring civics instruction at the middle school level.

Currently, New Jersey is one of a minority of states which does not require civics lessons which teach the history of the American system of voting and democracy for middle school students.

A survey of the state's 522 school districts with students grades 6 - 8 found that only 29 of them offer civics education.

The new law, dubbed "Laura Wooten's Law," is named in honor of the longest continuously serving poll worker in American history.

Laura Wooten worked polls in New Jersey for 79 years before passing away in 2019.

"Her life stands a reminder that change in a democracy ultimately comes from those, not who hold elected office, but through the work of ordinary citizens," Gov. Murphy said.

Wooten has been praised statewide as a model citizen.

Shew as born in segregated North Carolina in 1920 and she started volunteering as a poll worker when she was 18 years old.

She would later move to princeton as a teen. It's where she built her life and legacy of service.

"My mother would be so honored to know that a bill would be passed recognizing her legacy of civic responsibility," Wooten's daughter, Yvonne Hill, said.

Under the new law, the New Jersey Center for Civic Education at Rutgers University will prepare civics curriculum guidelines for local school boards, "ensuring that middle and high school students study the values and principles underlying the American system of constitutional democracy, the function of government, and the role of a citizen in a democratic society," the governor's office said in a statement.

The bill also requires the center to provide professional development and other resources for high school social studies teachers as they fulfill the requirement of integrating civics into the existing United States history course.



Starting in the school year after next, in 2022-2023, every board of education in the state will be required to provide a course of study in civics at the appropriate grade level.

"By deepening civics instruction in middle school and high school, we are giving students the tools they need to be more engaged and informed citizens," Gov. Murphy said.

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