This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Lawmakers gave final passage Thursday to a bill requiring that before high school students can graduate, they must pass the same civics test that is given to immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship.
The Senate passed SB60 15-8, approving earlier House amendments. It now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.
It will require students to answer 50 of the 100 questions that immigrants must study, and answer at least 70 percent correctly to graduate. Immigrants are only asked 10 of the 100 questions, and need only a 60 percent score to pass. The test can be taken in class or online and can be taken multiple times until a student achieves a passing score.
Sandy Republican Rep. Steven Eliason, the bill's House sponsor, said he had been working with education officials for months to make the test "as easy as possible" for students.
Questions are basic, and range from asking test-takers to name such things as the three branches of the federal government, their state capital, the U.S. president and some rights listed in the First Amendment.
Eliason described the test as "a step in the right direction," measuring a minimum awareness of American government.
"Our country has some challenges in terms of civic participation and civic understanding," Eliason said.
But Salt Lake City Democrat Rep. Joel Briscoe, a former educator, said he had spoken with teachers who felt the bill micromanages classroom decisions. He also expressed skepticism that forcing students to take a civics test would foster critical awareness of government.
"This is the bottom," he said. "This is memorizing facts."
The bill will affect students who graduate after Jan. 1, 2016.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, sponsor of the bill, earlier said it "will create a sense of pride in every student who graduates" by knowing "they have taken the same test as immigrants" who became citizens. He said it will ensure a student is prepared "to be a more involved citizen and a more informed voter."
The bill is part of a national drive by the Joe Foss Initiative. It seeks to have all 50 states pass such legislation by Sept. 17, 2017 the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.
Lee Davidson and Benjamin Wood