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Civics education initiative in Missouri is a bipartisan effort

JEFFERSON CITY — The Civic Education Initiative wants to pass legislation in all 50 states by September 17, 2017. Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, and Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Callaway County along with several fellow lawmakers announced the Civics Education Initiative for Missouri.

The lawmakers do not predict any roadblocks in getting this legislation passed because it has broad bipartisan support. The initiative has both Republican and Democratic support from both the Senate and the House.

“One of the things we talk about a lot from a bipartisan standpoint is the importance and the need for openness and transparency in government,” said Jeremy LaFaver, democratic sponsor of the initiative. “In order to have that it is important for people to know what they’re looking at.”

The initiative would require all Missouri high school students to achieve at least a 60 percent score on the United States Citizenship Civics Test in order to graduate and earn a diploma. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) produced the 100- question test, which is the same test that applicants for United States citizenship must pass. While 92 percent of immigrants applying for citizenship passed this test only 24% of United States students are proficient in civics, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

“As a nation, to better understand our present, to properly prepare for our future we need to fully have a knowledge of the present and of the past,” said Rep. Kathryn Swan, R-Cape Girardeau.

The test incorporates topics relating to American government, American history and integrated civics. One question from the test reads, “What do we call the first ten amendments to the constitution?” Another reads, “What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?” Students can take this test at any time during their high school career, and the lawmakers were very careful when writing the legislation to allow flexibility of how and when to introduce this material in the classroom. Several of the lawmakers took the test themselves before they wrote the legislation and they all passed with flying colors. Sam Stone, executive director of the Civics Education Initiative, earned a 97 percent on the test.

“We’ve made this testing option for passing as straightforward as possible and very flexible for our school districts,” said Riddle.

The real responsibility is on the students as this information should already be a part of the curriculum in every middle and high school across the state. The goal is to make the students take this information seriously.

“For our government to function properly for years to come, our children and grandchildren must be active and knowledgeable participants of the government,” said Riddle.

The Civic Education Initiative passed recently in Arizona and is expected to pass this week in North Dakota.

“I think it’s a tremendous piece of legislation and it is something that we can use to move the state forward and be on the cutting edge of education at the forefront of our country,” said Rep. Elijah Haahr, R- Springfield.