Hello, my name is Justin Villere. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you this afternoon. I serve as the Director of Civic Education for the Committee of Seventy, Philadelphia’s and Pennsylvania’s oldest nonpartisan, good government group. Our vision is better government that Philadelphians can trust. Our chief charge is working to equip voters with information on how they can safely and confidently cast their ballot each and every election.
But the health of American democracy shouldn’t just focus on making sure that those currently eligible are able to vote. We need to equip our future voters with the knowledge and skills to cast their ballots when they turn 18. Like preparing students to apply core mathematical skills, analyze great works of literature, or code the next useful mobile application, it is a school district’s charge to prepare students to be active, engaged members of their community. Knowing how to vote is the core function of that engagement.
Accordingly, the Committee of Seventy enthusiastically supports a resolution to make student voter engagement a permanent part of the district’s curriculum.
We have had the great fortune of working with staff on the district-level and directly with a number teachers in buildings across the city already doing this work. Between our website and partners like PA Youth Vote, there are plenty of resources that already exist to help teachers provide the necessary resources to get students engaged in elections. However, without a resolution for permanent inclusion in the district’s curriculum, it is still subject to interruptions in the calendar or other priorities from administrators or staff. Again, we believe learning how to be a voter is a core principle of well-rounded student learning.
Last month, we co-sponsored Give Us a Ballot, where 400+ students marched from Love Park to City Hall as part of National Vote Early Day. It was invigorating to see students from schools across the city living the fundamental right of citizenship. The more opportunities we can give future students to take part in activities like this, the better our city’s future will be.
Thank you for your time this afternoon.