Why Celebrate Constitution Day?
Because it is required by law for most U. S. schools and universities.
"Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution." Public Law 108-447, 118 Stat. 2809, 3344-45 (Section 111)
The PDF version of this lengthy public law is available through GPO Access. The Constitution Day language is near the end of the law, in Division J – "Other Matters."
“When September 17 falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, Constitution Day shall be held during the preceding or following week.” 70 Fed. Reg. 29727 (May 24, 2005)
This notice applies to educational institutions receiving federal funding from the Department of Education.
There is nothing in the enabling legislation that provides funding or enforces compliance. And how each institution chooses to educate its students is open to interpretation.
According to the late-Senator Robert Byrd (D, West Virginia), chief sponsor of the Constitution Day provision, which was subsequently included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005: “Without constant study and renewal of our knowledge of the Constitution and its history we are in peril of allowing our freedoms to erode. If we fail to understand the importance of the checks and balances between Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Executive Branch, we will not be in a position to know when these checks are threatened.”
While some may quibble with a law that requires the nation's schools and universities to educate students about the Constitution, others will recognize the need for just such a program. In its support, Byrd cited a 2000 survey that found only 51 percent of Americans would vote for passage of the U.S. Constitution if it were presented in ballot form today.