Committee OKs required study of US founding documents

EARLY STAGES: Committee removes testing requirement; sponsor wants it reinstated.

March 30, 2011 

JUNEAU -- Lawmakers on the House Education Committee on Wednesday approved a bill mandating that students be taught the nation's founding documents before graduating high school. It passed only after a testing requirement was removed from the proposal.

Bill sponsor Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, said he hoped the bill would improve student's understanding of civics by requiring them to be taught and tested on the nation's founding documents.

According to the bill, these documents include the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, first state constitutions, Federalist Papers, Bill of Rights and others "produced in the founding of our constitutional republic model of government."

Some committee members objected to the testing requirement in the bill.

"I don't think it's going to be the most productive for every school board to have to develop a curriculum," said Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer.

The bill does not specify how the test should be written and did not allow for waivers for students. Seaton said he feared schools would implement a watered-down test simply to get students to graduate.

Committee vice chairman Lance Pruitt proposed an amendment that would remove the testing requirement from the bill, which the committee approved by a 5-2 vote.

The amended bill now only requires school districts to develop a curriculum to teach the founding documents.

Keller said he opposed the amendment, saying it would weaken the bill. He said he hopes the testing requirement will be reinstated by a future committee.

House Bill 5 now awaits consideration by the House Finance Committee.

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