SB 157, an act that would establish a civics education requirement as a condition for high school graduation, is another instance of top-down legislation that defies local control.
The sponsors of this bill mean well. They believe that all high-school graduates should have a basic knowledge of civics and demonstrate it by passing the US Citizens Civics test. While the bill requires only a 60% to pass, the low score or ease of the exam is irrelevant. It is about local control.
The legislature should not be involved in telling school districts what should be required for graduation or taught in the schools. Any New Hampshire school district could require a similar civics class or test, but coming from the legislature, it becomes an unfunded mandate, against Part 1 Article 28-A of the NH Constitution.
The body authorized for setting graduation requirements is the local school boards. They may determine what is appropriate for their districts. It should not be dictated by the state, whether it is the Department of Education, the Board of Education, or the legislature.
The original version of SB 157 would also increase homeschool regulation. Although a sponsor has informed us that they intend to introduce an amendment exempting private schools and homeschool programs from this bill, the fundamental flaws remain.
How can so many of the sponsors say they champion local control yet sponsor this bill that increases state interference in education? It is hypocritical and makes them look inconsistent.
As a federal exam produced by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, New Hampshire has no hand in revisions of this test or the study materials that support it. Eventually the test could include content that these sponsors would likely find unacceptable. What if the test or study materials stated support for UN authority superseding the US Constitution? Would these same legislators still want this specific federal test required in NH statute?
Also, this bill leaves open the possibility for other federal exams and state-mandated tests to become graduation requirements. This is a dangerous precedent.
SB 157 is just another feel-good “flag waiving” bill.
The bill is not scheduled for a public hearing yet, but the information will be posted once it is announced.
Please write your senator asking him or her to OPPOSE SB 157 and the proposed amendment. Also contact the sponsors of this bill and ask them to withdraw this fundamentally flawed bill.
Sponsors of SB 157
Sen. Regina Birdsell, prime sponsor
Sen. Kevin Avard
Sen. John Reagan
Sen. Jeb Bradley
Sen. Martha Fuller Clark
Sen. Nancy Stiles
Rep. Ken Weyler
Rep. Glenn Cordelli
Rep. Jeanine Notter
Rep. David Murotake