To become an American citizen, immigrants must pass a civics test that asks questions such as, "What is one reason colonists came to America?" and "What does the Constitution do?" A bill that would make the passing of that test a requirement for high school graduation cleared the House Education Committee on a voice vote with some dissent Tuesday.
Rep. Bruce Cozart (R-Hot Springs), lead sponsor of House Bill 1539, said, "If we require our immigrants who come in to be citizens to take this test, how much more so should we as citizens of this country need to know these questions and the answers to those?"
The bill would require students to answer 60 of the 100 test questions correctly, and students could retake the test as many times as necessary to pass.
Presenting the bill with Cozart was Dr. Lucian Spataro, vice president of Legislative Affairs at the Joe Foss Institute, an organization that advocates for civics testing. Spataro said there is a "civics crisis" in America.
"Numerous studies have shown that the vast majority of American students and many adults lack the basic understanding of how our country was founded, how it's governed, and what it means to be a citizen," he said.
Spataro said administering the test would not cost the state money, since the test is available online.
Some lawmakers voiced concerns about the multiple choice format of the test, as well as the subjective nature of the questions.
Fifteen states have implemented a similar requirement, including Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee.
This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.