Listen Live

(INDIANAPOLIS) – Immigrants have to pass a civics test to become U-S citizens. A state senator wants Indiana teenagers to pass it to graduate high school.

This is the third time in five years Auburn Republican Dennis Kruse has proposed the civics requirement. The Senate voted it down in 2015. A watered-down version passed the Senate two years ago but didn’t get a hearing in the House.

Veterans’ groups and religious conservatives support the bill, saying it’s testing knowledge essential to America’s foundations. But teachers’ groups and the Indiana Department of Education argue the state has been working, with legislators’ encouragement, to reduce the time spent on testing instead of learning. Tim McRoberts with the Indiana Association of School Principals says the civics requirement would be a step in the wrong direction.

Students are already required to pass two semesters of U-S history and one semester of government. Department of Education chief academic officer Ken Folks says those classes overlap 90-percent of what’s required on the citizenship test.

And Folks says the state’s learning standards are designed to reward critical thinking, not memorization. Instead of identifying where the Statue of Liberty is, for instance, Folks says students should be able to explain the reason France presented the U-S with the statue, or the significance of the broken chain at the statue’s feet.

At the legislature’s direction, the department has already developed an optional civics test for school districts who want to administer it. That test will be available for the first time this spring.

The Senate Education Committee will vote next week.

(Photo: stillfx/Thinkstock)