Reps. Kortz, Boback civics education bill receives committee hearing

HARRISBURG, Sept. 26 – State Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny, called for increased civics education in schools at a joint hearing this morning before the House Education and Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committees regarding H.B. 1858, which was introduced by Kortz and state Rep. Karen Boback, R-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Wyoming.

The bill would require Pennsylvania high school students to demonstrate a basic understanding of American history and civics as a condition of graduation.  

"This bill would ensure that our students will be taught basic civics in our schools," Kortz said. "We need to do this so they can understand our nation and our government, to understand our representative republic so they can be better prepared to be engaged as citizens in our democracy.

"House Bill 1858 would require students to pass the U.S. Citizenship test to graduate high school. Students should know who the current president of the United States is. Some do not."

Kortz and Boback were joined by state and national leaders in civics education to encourage the committees to support the legislation.

Speaking in support of the bill were Dr. Lucian Spataro, chairman of the Civics Education Initiative for the Joe Foss Institute, who provided a video clip demonstrating college students' lack of knowledge, such as not knowing who won the Civil War, and being unable to name the current vice president. The institute has been instrumental in introducing similar legislation throughout the country.

Marjorie Rendell, senior judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and president of the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement, also addressed the joint committee.

Also speaking in favor of the bill were Thomas A. Brown, Pennsylvania State Commander, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Kit Watson, Pennsylvania State Adjutant, American Legion.

Educators would have a great deal of flexibility with regard to the implementation of the civics proficiency graduation requirement. The 100 questions can be applied in a variety of ways and many teachers have expressed that they already incorporate the topics into their curriculum.

House Bill 1858 has the support of over 45 representatives and is a bipartisan initiative. The bill is endorsed by the American Legion Department of Pennsylvania and is awaiting a hearing in the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.