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Sen. Byrd, Champion of Civic Education, Passes Away

By Alyson Klein — June 28, 2010 1 min read
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Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.V. , who passed away this morning at the age of 92, was famous in the Senate for carrying around a copy of the constitution. And he wanted to make sure that students across America had a thorough understanding of that document.

That’s why, in 2004, he put language into a federal spending bill directing schools to set aside a specific day, September 17, to teach students about the constitution, as a condition of receiving federal funds. Not every school has complied with the requirement (it doesn’t appear to have been strongly enforced) but many have taken the opportunity to step up civic education.

Byrd also championed a number of programs that were among those that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wanted to see consolidated in his fiscal year 2011 budget. Those included a $118 million program aimed at providing grants for teaching American history, as well as the Byrd Honors Scholarship Program, financed at about $40 million, which funded merit-based scholarships for high school students.

Check out this excellent post over at Eduflack, a blog written by Byrd’s former press secretary, Patrick Riccards.