House passes Kortz bill requiring school civics assessment

HARRISBURG, April 16 – A bill that would require Pennsylvania schools to assess students’ competency in U.S. history, government and civics at least once between grades seven and 12 passed the House today, according to the bill’s co-prime sponsor, Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny.

House Bill 564 would require schools to administer the assessment to ensure that students understand the nature, purpose and principles of U.S. constitutional democracy, the structure and operation of the U.S. government and its most important documents, and the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship.

“At the end of the day, we want our students graduating high school to have the basic knowledge they need to become engaged citizens,” Kortz said. “Ours is the greatest democracy in the world, and when we welcome new immigrants, we require them to have a basic understanding of our government. It’s essential that we ensure that our young people coming out of school here in Pennsylvania are equipped with the same basic knowledge.”

Under the bill, the state Department of Education would be required to post links on its website to the 100-question test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services and any other materials the department considers useful for schools. The bill also would require the department to conduct an electronic survey of each school entity at the end of the 2020-21 school year, and every two years after, measuring compliance with the testing requirements.

“We require our students to demonstrate competency in subjects such as language skills, math and science, but we’re not giving them a complete education if we’re not ensuring that they understand how our great democracy works,” Kortz said. “I’m encouraged that my bill passed the House with bipartisan support.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.