The Youth Civic Education & Engagement initiative aims to engage the next generation of Texans, like these young men from the Urban Enrichment Institute pictured with their mentor and long-time friend of CDF-Texas, Shawn DeVaughn (center).
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Youth Civic Education & Engagement
Reimagining the way we engage the next generation of Texans
CDF-Texas believes that every child deserves access to quality and culturally sustaining civic education. Students who receive a quality civic education are more likely to vote, remain in school, volunteer and work on community issues, and engage in critical thinking and civil debate. In Texas, over a quarter of our population is 18 or younger and at least 69% of our young Texans are people of color. Greater civic engagement and participation of youth, particularly youth of color, is critical to ensure they will share in both the decision-making of our community and the economic prosperity of our state.
CDF-Texas has launched a new initiative to improve civic education and youth civic engagement in Texas. This effort seeks to reimagine how we conduct civic education in our schools, how we engage and support first-time voters, and how we create active opportunities for community engagement for our youth.
We approach our civic education advocacy effort on two fronts: highlighting the state barriers to access that exist for youth voter registration and participation, and emphasizing the greater need for quality and culturally responsive civic education in our public schools. Our team works to ensure that young Texans have all of the tools they need to be engaged in our civics systems, to easily navigate them, and to inspire their peers to get involved. The following sections highlight CDF-Texas’ civic priorities.
All students should have access to quality civic ed because it helps them fight injustice.
CDF-Texas works to address state barriers and culturally responsive practices in civic ed. Among these initiatives are:
YOUTH VOTER REGISTRATION AND ACCESS
Expanding Voting Access
Just over a quarter of Texans aged 18 to 29 voted in the 2018 midterm election. Although this represents a 17-point increase in turnout since the last midterm cycle, the fact that 74% of eligible young voters did not vote means that our elections still don’t represent the young, diverse Texas population.
2018 Midterm Election: Voter Turnout for Texans Ages 18-29
In CDF-Texas’ latest report, we explore Texas’ history of erecting barriers for young voters – and especially voters of color. Meanwhile, we work in tandem with other partners to help make it easier for all eligible Texans to cast their ballot.
- Exploring the Opportunities
As another election cycle approaches, CDF-Texas is working to identify target counties for increased youth voter turnout efforts. In Texas’ 10 counties with the highest young-adult populations, we found that the average young-voter turnout in 2012, 2014, and 2016 was less than 11%. From this, we have identified 50 Opportunity Counties that present a rich environment for voter-engagement efforts due to their relatively large population of young adults and relatively low rates of young voter turnout. The 50 counties identified by CDF-Texas represent prime opportunities for young voter targeting efforts in future election cycles.
*Data obtained from the Secretary of State.
- Encouraging Peer High School Voter Registration
Though all high schools in Texas are required to offer voter registration to their students, compliance is very low. To combat this, we seek to encourage high school students to register their peers to vote and to create a culture of voting within their schools and communities.
COMMUNITY ADVOCACY AND ENGAGEMENT
Building Momentum for Youth Advocacy and Civic Participation
Empowering youth to engage in the civic decision-making that affects their lives can be a powerful tool for addressing social exclusion and injustice. Our approach to youth engagement is multifaceted, aiming not only to increase youth voter participation, but also to support action-based learning of civic education that instills in youth an understanding of how to use their voice to advocate for changes in their community.
- Leadership Development and Resources
It is those who are affected by issues who are most equipped to speak on them. CDF-Texas seeks to teach budding advocates about the nuts and bolts of our civics systems so they can use their voices and their stories to create the changes they want to see for the good of their communities. Through our Youth Bill of Rights program we train young people to speak to their elected officials on the policy issues that impact their lives.
Working with both state civic curriculum requirements and online resources, we also aim to craft materials that can be used inside and outside of schools to empower youth. In our most recent report, educators and students can find a comprehensive list of relevant scholarships, institutes and lesson plans.
- Convening Practitioners, Educators, and School Administrators to Improve Civic Learning in Texas Classrooms
In Texas, there is compelling evidence that many students, especially low-income students of color, are getting little if any civic education in the classroom. State-specific research shows that on traditional measures of political and civic participation, Texas ranked at or near the bottom compared to other states. Addressing this challenge demands that we build early habits of civic engagement.
CDF-Texas has joined with partners statewide to promote best practices in civic education while ensuring that all young Texans have equitable access and opportunity. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to keep up to date with our civic education work.
Explore Our Policy Priorities