In the hours before the Legislature adjourned for its spring break, it approved a bill requiring Kansas students to pass an American civics test to graduate from high school.
The bill, backed by Republican state Rep. Steve Huebert, requires students enrolled in an accredited public, private or parochial high school to pass a civics test – or series of tests – as part of the required course of instruction for graduation.
The 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.
Democratic state Sen. David Haley introduced the financial literacy amendment when the bill was considered in the Senate.
Students wouldn’t have to pass the civics test until the 2022-23 school year.
The bill would require students pass the financial literacy course for graduation starting in the 2024-2025 school year.
Huebert said the bill has distinct implications for families and students in their everyday lives, especially now that it includes a financial literacy component.
“Financial literacy, civics. These are things that parents and kids care about,” Huebert said. “We need to do better and this is a chance to do better for our kids.”
Huebert said there may be other education bills that merited a lively debate, the civics and literacy bill was not one of them.
“This is not a controversial issue,” he said.
“This bill,” he said, “will make things better for our kids with civics education and now the financial literacy piece.”
Throughout the session, opponents of the legislation said it was encroaching on the state Board of Education’s constitutional responsibility to generally supervise the school system.
“I certainly support our children knowing more about civics and knowing more about being financialy responsible They’re both good topics,” said Democratic state Rep. Jerry Stogsdill of Prairie Village.
“This is the wrong way to do it,” Stogsdill said. “This is overreach into the rights and responsibilities of the State Board of Education and our local school boards.
“We should the let the State Board of Education and our local school boards do what they were elected to do and we should do what we were elected to do,” he said.