Bill to make civics test a graduation requirement advances at Statehouse

Indiana high school students might have to pass another test in order to graduate.

Senate Bill 132, which was passed 31-17 by the Senate on Thursday, would require students to get a score of at least 60 percent on the United States immigration civics test in order to graduate. The bill heads to the Indiana House for further consideration.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R- Auburn, said he authored the bill to ensure high school students would better understand their government and country.

“It’s important in our country to know who we are, know what kind of country we are,” he said.

Under the bill, students would be allowed to take the test as many times as needed between 8th grade and graduation. Kruse also said that the bill has no fiscal impact, since students would take the test on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Sen. Victoria Spartz, R-Noblesville, who immigrated from the Ukraine and became a United States citizen in 2006, spoke in support of the bill. She said she might not remember every single answer to the questions on test, but she learned valuable information through studying that she still uses.

“There are some skills—fundamental, foundational skills—that are extremely important to the survival of a free republic,” she said.

However, some senators said they didn't see the need to make passing the test a graduation requirement.

Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington, said he thought the material could be more effective if taught in a class and not simply learned through a test.

“This is important information that needs to be mastered by all our kids coming out of high school,” he said, “but I think it could fit into our education curriculum and standards in a different format.”

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said he thought the bill was ridiculous and the test was biased against many black Americans.

He cited sociologist and civil rights activist William Edward Burghardt Du Bois and Nat Turner, a slave who led a rebellion, as important historic figures who aren't typically included on civics tests but people who inspired and motivated him.

“Quite frankly, I’m offended by the test,” he said.

He said there are many students who live in a different culture than everyone else.

“They’re going to have to learn about us, instead of us learning about them,” he said.

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