Few Rules for New Constitution Day Requirement

The Education Department isn't requiring much from colleges to carry out a new law.
May 25, 2005

The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787. Sen. Robert Byrd takes the Constitution very seriously and worries that not enough Americans share his passion or know much about the Constitution.

So the powerful West Virginia senator inserted into an appropriations bill last year a requirement that all educational institutions receiving federal funds offer an instructional program every Constitution Day, September 17. Colleges are covered by the provision and the Education Department released rules Tuesday to carry out the law.

The rules aren't really rules at all. They just restate the requirement of the law, note that Constitution Day programs can be held the week prior or after September 17 if that day falls on a weekend or holiday (this year it is a Saturday), and offer some Web sites with information about the Constitution. So while colleges have to do something on Constitution Day, they can decide on just about any approach.

The lack of detail was a relief to colleges, most of which prefer for Congress not to stipulate new areas of educational programming. Some educators feared that detailed requirements on how to observe Constitution Day or detailed reporting requirements would make the new requirement burdensome.


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