Board gently opposes civics, financial literacy mandates

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The Kansas State Board of Education on Wednesday sent a soft message to the governor opposing legislation requiring a civics test, a financial literacy course and development of a National Rifle Association-based firearm safety course for students.

The resolution adopted by the board stops short of calling for an outright veto of the legislation but asks Gov. Laura Kelly to consider the board’s constitutional authority to generally supervise the school system.

The resolution authorizes the chair and vice chair of the board to provide information to the governor about the board’s constitutional and statutory authority on these issues and the benefits local school districts receive by keeping the board’s power intact.

The resolution drew criticism because of its ambiguity and because it didn’t directly call for the governor to veto the legislation.

“Why are we not directly asking her to veto those bills instead of dancing all around?” said board member Ann Mah. “Why don’t we tell her what we want?

“It’s implied but we don’t say it,” she said.

Board members said they supported the premise of the bills such as a civics eduation, and financial literacy.

They only opposed how the Legislature is trying to mandate the curriculum over the board’s constitutional authority.

“As a matter of fact, we’re for all that stuff,” said board chairman Jim Porter.

“The only issue is that we believe it’s our responsibility, not the Legislature’s responsibility,” he said.

“We strongly support civics education, we strongly support financial literacy and we believe it is the option of the local school district how they want to do firearms safety but they don’t need to be told exactly what they have to do,” he said.

Porter said the resolution, which will be given to the governor on Wednesday, implies she should veto the bills.

Republican state Rep. Steve Huebert of Wichita sponsored the civics bill.

“My problem with them is I went over there and talked to them,” Huebert said.

“I told them exactly what I was going to do I asked them to work with me and they chose not to,” Huebert said.

“I can’t make them work with me, but I can get their attention and I think I’ve gotten their attention,” he said.

The board is targeting two bills, one requiring Kansas students to pass an American civics test to graduate from high school as well as pass a financial literacy course.

The civics test would be made up of 60 questions selected from the naturalization test administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The bill also requires a personal financial literacy course for grades 10 through 12 that would last at least one semester or two quarters.

The bill would require the course to include topics ranging from saving and investing to
credit and debt to financial responsibility and money management.

Students wouldn’t have to pass the civics test until the 2022-23 school year.

The bill would require students to pass the financial literacy course for graduation starting in the 2024-2025 school year.

The House passed the civics bill 72-51. It was approved 25-13 in the Senate. Both votes are short of overriding a potential veto from the governor.

A second bill would require the state Board of Education to develop guidelines for gun-safety education that would include the National Rifle Association-crafted Eddie Eagle GunSafe program.

It was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Patrick Penn, who could not be reached for comment.

The bill would require gun-safety courses for students from kindergarten to fifth grade to be based on the Eddie Eagle program or any “successor program.”

Firearms safety courses for students in the sixth through eighth grades would be based on the Eddie Eagle program and hunter education classes offered by the Kansas wildlife department.

Students in grades nine through 12 could take classes based on the hunter education courses offered by the wildlife department. The Board of Education or local school districts could designate other gun-safety progams offered by the agency.

The Eddie Eagle bill passed 31-7 in the Senate and 79-44 in the House. The Senate has the votes for a veto override but the House is five short.