Originally Published: January 14, 2015 6 a.m.
PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Legislature is putting a bill creating a new high school civics test on the fast track, answering a call from Gov. Doug Ducey to make it the very first law he signs as the state's chief executive.
The bill - based on the civics portion of the test that is required for immigrants to become U.S. citizens - is being pushed nationally by the Scottsdale-based Joe Foss Institute, which has set a goal of having all 50 states adopt the civics test by 2017, the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. The institute says legislatures in 15 states are expected to consider it this year.
The Arizona bill requires students to correctly answer 60 of 100 questions on the test. Passage would be required to earn a high school or GED diploma starting in the 2016-2017 school year.
Arizona would be the first state to adopt it if it passes this week, according to the institute. The Senate and House education committees scheduled hearings for Thursday, and after a routine swing through the rules committee, House Bill 2064 and Senate Bill 1029 could come up quickly for floor votes. Because they're identical, a quick swap between chambers could send the legislation directly to Ducey.
Republicans control both legislative chambers, and the bill is likely to easily pass, especially because of the Republican governor's support.
Ducey has embraced civics literacy as a key point in his plan to improve education in Arizona. He said in Monday's State of the State address that many students just aren't learning the basic civics they need to be good citizens and a large percentage can't identify people like former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former President Ronald Reagan and Founding Father John Adams, the nation's second president.
"This is an issue that can and should unite us," Ducey said. "These are our children, and not long from now, it will be for them to vote on who sits in your chairs and who stands at this podium. How can we expect them to protect the principles on which this country was founded, if we are not preparing them for that task right now?"
The Arizona Education Association, which represents 20,000 teachers, is opposed to the test but will not actively lobby against it because it is not a top priority, spokeswoman Sheenae Shannon said Tuesday.