Bill would require students to show proficiency in civics

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Bill would require students to show proficiency in civics

Published 2:01 a.m. PT Feb. 23, 2017 | Updated 6:41 a.m. PT Feb. 23, 2017

A bill facing the Oregon State Legislature would require students to demonstrate proficiency in civics in order to graduate.

If passed, HB 2691 would require school districts or public charter schools to only award a high school diploma to a student, at or before grade 12, who completes the requirements identified by the school district.

This could include successful completion of a course in civics, a passing grade on a civics test selected by the school district or a passing grade on a civics test developed by the Department of Education and the Secretary of State, according to the bill.

Representative Paul Evans (D-Monmouth), chief sponsor of the bill, spoke about HB 2691 to the House Committee on Education Monday.

“For all the best intentions, we have prioritized other academic disciplines too often at the expense of civics,” he said. “This was not purposeful, but it does have a consequence.”

As a result, only one-quarter of Americans can name all three branches of government, according to a 2016 survey conducted by the University of Pennsylvania.

Evans argued the bill has three advantages: it provides a tool for encouraging greater civics education and learning opportunities, it allows for maximum flexibility for school districts to determine a proficiency standard best suited to the circumstances of their community, and it can be implemented without any additional state funds.

No statement of fiscal or revenue impact has been issued, but it is not anticipated to cost much if anything. This bill would change the optional guidelines currently outlined by the state of Oregon to be more of a requirement; it would take effect January 1, 2021.

To get to the “heart of the matter,” Evans quoted Franklin Roosevelt saying, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy is, therefore, education.”

Contact Natalie Pate at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist

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