ST. PAUL – State Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, and Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, are chief authors of bipartisan legislation addressing what they say is a growing “crisis” of civics knowledge in Minnesota.
The bill (S.F. 294/ H.F. 249) requires juniors or seniors to take a for-credit civics class as part of the 3.5 social studies credits required in Minnesota high schools.
The Minnesota Department of Education will begin collecting data from an already required 50-question civics test that Minnesota students take between grades seven and 12. While passage of the exam is not a graduation standard, Urdahl says the test data will help assess civics knowledge in our state.
Urdahl also says “Knowledge of our state and federal governments has eroded to crisis levels as other subject areas have received increased emphasis in our schools,” and Urdahl says. “The unintended consequences are damaging to our society, with a significant percentage of our population failing to have even a basic understanding of our how our government functions.”
He says the bill would restore civics as an important component in our educational system and the data we collect would be instrumental in analyzing the situation.
A report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows less than 30 percent of students were proficient in civics, and a significant gap persists among racial and ethnic groups.
Similar legislation passed the Minnesota Legislature last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.
This session, the bill was heard in Nelson’s E-12 Education Committee. With bipartisan support, 68 co-authors signed the House version of the bill, which received its first hearing in that body Tuesday.