Did you know that institutions must provide an “educational program” about the U.S. Constitution each year? This requirement was implemented as a result of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 (Pub. L. 108–447, signed into law on December 8, 2004). Any institution that receives Federal funding in a Federal fiscal year (e.g., Title IV Federal Student Aid) is required to “hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.’’ (If September 17 falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday in any particular year, the program may be conducted during the week preceding or following September 17.)
The regulation pertaining to this requirement is in the Federal Register[i] dated May 24, 2005. The purpose of the designation of the date is to commemorate the signing of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787. Since the legislation stipulates that the law applies without fiscal year limitation, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has specified that the notice and requirements of the legislation pertains to all years subsequent to the signing of the legislation.
ED does not stipulate requirements that should be included in a Constitution Dayprogram. However, it does offer some resources in the Federal Register mentioned above. Potential sources that may provide ideas for conducting a Constitution Dayprogram could include ideas or material contained in:
- Library of Congress’ Constitution Day Teacher Resources;[ii]
- the National Archives for information on the Constitution, (for example a scanned copy of the Constitution), etc., or
- Library of Congress’ “The Making of the U.S. Constitution.”
Other potential resources may include:
- the National Endowment for the Humanities’ EDSITEment! Web site to search for topics on the Constitution or Constitution Day;
- the National Constitution Center (a non-profit, non-partisan organization;
- the Center for Civic Education, or
- National History Education Clearinghouse (search for Constitution Day).
It is important to keep in mind, that compliance with this requirement is an “institutional eligibility” criterion. Therefore, it is not just a financial aid office responsibility, but an institutional responsibility (if the institution chooses to continue participating in the federal Title IV programs). Since it is an institutional responsibility, the program may be conducted by any designated office, person, department, or entity, etc. And, it may be assigned as a joint responsibility among more than one office or department if doing so will make the program more effective.
Some possible considerations for methods of conducting a program for Constitution Day that we have previously shared may include:
- having a “class” on the Constitution;
- providing a link to the Constitution and having a quiz;
- distributing paper copies of the Constitution;
- enlisting faculty, staff, and/or students to read the Constitution aloud in a common area on your campus;
- finding a Webinar through one of the resources mentioned above to which you choose to distribute a link and use in a class that will contribute toward meeting the requirements of a Constitution Day program;
- utilizing your faculty, academic departments, or student services offices to coordinate or assist with an appropriate program, etc.
To ease the process of developing and conducting a program, we suggest you:
- add Constitution Day to your institution’s annual planning calendar so appropriate assignments and announcements are made in a timely manner;
- develop and maintain appropriate resources for use in your annual program;
- make sure you keep an accurate description of when you conducted your Constitution Day program, what you accomplished with the program, and what your program entailed. This will assist in documenting your compliance for federal program review purposes.
[i] “Notice of Implementation of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17 of Each Year,” 70 Federal Register 99 (May 24, 2005), page 29727. (Accessed on September 6, 2018.)[ii] The resources for which hyperlinks are provided for this source, and the subsequent ones in this DYK, were all accessed again on September 6, 2018, to verify accuracy of the hyperlinked URLs.
This material is presented for informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered to be giving legal advice.