Wisconsin students would have to pass the civics portion of the U.S. citizenship test to graduate from high school under a bill introduced by a Republican legislator.
Rep. James “Jimmy Boy” Edming’s bill calls for students to correctly answer at least 60 of 100 questions on the civics section of the test taken by those seeking U.S. citizenship. Examples of questions include how many amendments have been added to the Constitution (27), naming a branch of government (legislative, executive or judicial) and which war Dwight Eisenhower served in as a general (World War II).
Edming, a freshman legislator from Glen Flora in northwestern Wisconsin’s Rusk County, said Monday that he wants all graduating seniors to have at least a modicum of knowledge about government and civics. He noted students would be permitted more than one chance to pass the test.
“As American citizens, we have to have a little common knowledge of what America is about,” Edming said, adding, “It’s not going to cost the taxpayers a dime.”
The requirement would apply to students at public schools, charter schools and schools participating in the state’s voucher program, which subsidizes private-school tuition. The requirement would go into effect beginning with the 2016-17 school year.
Arizona and North Dakota have implemented similar requirements.
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Edming wrote in a April 24 memo seeking co-sponsors that he’s shocked at how few people understand the workings of the U.S. government. He said Wisconsin high schools should help instill the responsibilities of citizenship.
A half-dozen Republicans, including five Assembly members and one senator, Van Wanggaard of Racine, have signed on as co-sponsors. The Assembly’s state affairs committee has scheduled a public hearing for Wednesday afternoon. A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he supports the bill.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy said in an email that the agency opposes the bill.
McCarthy said DPI officials feel that creating another test for students is unnecessary.
Edming declined a reporter’s request that he take the civics test, saying he’s busy doing constituent work in his district. He said he is willing to take the test at the Capitol at a later date.
State Journal reporter Mark Sommerhauser contributed to this report.