LINCOLN– Nebraska K-12 students would need to brush up on what they learn in civics class if a bill heard by the Legislature’s Education Committee Jan. 29 were to pass.
The bill, LB 399, introduced by Sen. Julie Slama of Peru, would require eighth grade and 11th-grade students to complete a 100-question civics exam on American history, geography, government and economics. The exam would be the same civics test administered to new U.S. citizens upon naturalization. Students’ results would then be passed on to their parents or guardians.
Slama, who Gov. Pete Ricketts appointed in January, is 22. She said since she graduated from high school, she’s rarely thought about the science, math and English she was taught.
“I can’t remember how to diagram a sentence, I can’t remember the Pythagorean Theorem or the Periodic Table, but I’ve used my civics knowledge every single day,” she said. “I think that we should have it codified in statute that our kids are expected to have some sort of grasp on what’s expected of them as citizens and be informed.”
The bill was heard by the Education Committee Jan. 29, receiving support from members of Elm Creek Public Schools’ school board and people who said the bill would ensure the vision of the nation’s founding fathers would be passed on. It faced opposition from some people, who called the test a “white-washed” version of history. Spokespersons from the Nebraska Department of Education said requiring the test would undermine school districts’ power to decide what is taught in their classrooms.
Slama said she thought the testimony from both sides was productive.
“I think we can work together and get a compromise together that can get out of committee,” she said.
Also included in the bill is a section requiring schools to recognize Native American Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The committee hasn’t taken any action on the bill.