For Immediate Release:
Dec. 2, 2015

(573) 751-2757
Senator Jeanie Riddle Pre-Files Missouri Civics Education Initiative

JEFFERSON CITY — State Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Callaway County, pre-filed priority legislation today for the 2016 Session. Sen. Riddle’s bill, SB 638, will create and enact the Missouri Civics Education Initiative, which will ensure high school graduates have a sound knowledge of American history and civics and will require them to be tested on the knowledge before graduating.

“There is a sad truth in our state and nation today – many U.S. citizens simply don’t have a basic understanding of American civics, how our government works or who we are as a nation,” Sen. Riddle said. “Without this basic knowledge, citizens are less likely to vote or take part in policy decisions facing our cities, states and country today.  This critical problem must be addressed with a sense of urgency, and the Civics Education Initiative is the common-sense first step in doing just that.” 

The new Senate Bill would require public, charter and private high school students, as well as students enrolled in high school equivalency programs, to receive a passing grade on a standardized civics test. The proposed legislation features a provision that allows students taught through an Individual Education Program (IEP) to be exempt from the requirement if the student’s IEP committee recommends they be exempt from taking the test.

The exams will be required to be made up of the same 100 questions used on the civics portion of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ U.S. Naturalization test that is taken by immigrants looking to gain American citizenship. The questions cover such topics as the United States Constitution, American history, geography, etc., and the test can be retaken by the student an unlimited amount of times until he or she receives a passing grade during his or her high school education.

“Specific guidelines for the required curriculum are already in law, but the current testing requirements for the students is lacking.  Students need to take responsibility to comprehend and retain the information they are being taught,” said Riddle, a retired teacher of 28 years. “Our high school students will need to take this information they are already being taught seriously and prove they understand it just like we require immigrants to do when they become U.S. citizens.”

Earlier this year, the Civics Education Initiative was passed in nine states: Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana and Wisconsin.

If passed, the Missouri Civics Education Initiative would take effect Aug. 28, 2016, and all students entering ninth grade after July 1, 2017, would be required to receive a passing grade on the civics test.