Senators consider proposed new civics exam

The Senate Education Committee today discussed a bill that would require all Indiana graduates to pass the same civics test that new U.S. citizens are required to pass.

The committee is expected to vote on the bill next week.

Proponents of the Senate Bill 269 said they hoped it would boost knowledge of government and interest in public affairs.

“We need to have some kind of test for students to know elementary things that any citizen of the United States should know,” Committee chairman Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said.

But opponents of the bill said it was not needed, even while mostly lauding it goals.

Roni Embry of Indiana State Teachers Association said new standards and tests should ensure children learn the content that is tested by the citizenship exam.

“We do not feel it’s necessary to have a citizenship test given,” she said “But we do compliment you for bringing this issue forward.”

Meanwhile, the committee made major changes to several other bills. The other issues discussed were:

  • School discipline, Senate Bill 443. The bill, designed to prevent schools from suspending or expelling students based solely on attendance, was radically changed. Instead, a summer study committee will examine the question of using expulsion and suspension to discipline truants. An amendment also deleted a section of the bill that would have required more physical activity for children at school. The bill still provides grant money for schools to adopt positive, “evidence-based” discipline approaches and training for teachers and staff. It passed and a vote by the full Senate is expected as early as next week.
  • Deregulation, Senate Bill 500. The committee passed a sweeping amendment but held off on a final vote on a 300-page bill aimed at reducing regulations on schools. A host of concerns were raised about the bill, especially that some of the changes — like repealing rules about bullying or allowing diabetics more control over their treatments at school — would eliminate helpful or necessary requirements. The bill’s author, Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, said he removed nearly all of the sections of the bill that were connected to issues that were raised when the bill was discussed last week. That included 27 sections addressing student health care, school safety and worker safety reporting, tax issues and more. The committee is expected to vote on the bill next week.
  • The “Merry Christmas” bill, Senate Bill 233. This bill, adding language to current law to allow schools to have displays related to winter holidays, both religious and secular, passed 11-0. The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill as early as next week.