Guest post by Michelle Levell.
On the surface, SB 157 is reasonable. It would require a civics test as a condition for high school graduation. Many liberty and conservative leaning people would agree that our students should know the US Constitution and NH Constitution. However, the issue is more complicated than good intentions.
Although the sponsors have an amendment that would remove the requirement for home-schoolers and special education students, many of the flaws remain.
Regardless of the subject matter or intent, the legislature should not be involved in telling school districts what should be required for graduation or taught in the schools. Any New Hampshire school district could require a similar civics class or test, but coming from the legislature, it becomes an unfunded mandate, against Part 1 Article 28-A of the NH Constitution.
The body authorized for setting graduation requirements is the local school boards. They may determine what is appropriate for their districts. It should not be dictated by the state, whether it is the Department of Education, the Board of Education, or the legislature.
What else is wrong with this bill…?
As a federal exam, produced by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, New Hampshire has no hand in revisions of this test or the study materials that support it. The test could include content that might be unacceptable. What if the test covered abortion rights as part of the Ninth and 14th Amendments? Most of the sponsors are conservative pro-life legislators. Would they want that included in the civics test? What if the test or study materials were rewritten to include support for UN authority superseding the US Constitution? Section V of the pending amendment does not seem to address the content of the Citizens and Immigration test sufficiently to null this bill should it pass into law.
Finally, this bill leaves open the possibility for other federal exams and state-mandated tests to become graduation requirements. This is a dangerous precedent.
Unfortunately, many otherwise good pro-liberty and conservative senators and representatives are sponsors. They think that intentions are sufficient. They think that a civics test will somehow reverse the horrible trend of civics ignorance and misinformation that is rampant in our schools. They think that the low threshold for a passing score makes the test reasonable.
You cannot turn a bad bill into a good one. A bad bill must be killed.
Conservatives and liberty people need to tell the Senate Education Committee and sponsors that SB 157 is unacceptable. Good intentions are not enough. We must not give the feds the opportunity to control our schools. We must respect the NH Constitution. We must respect local control. The Senate Education Committee will have a public hearing on Tuesday, February 10th at 9:00am in the Legislative Office Building room 103 (see Senate calendar).
The sponsors need to know that this well-intended bill is fatally flawed. They need to hear from you.
Senate Education Committee
John Reagan, Chairman
Nancy Stiles, Vice Chairman
Sponsors of SB 157
Sen. Regina Birdsell, prime sponsor
Sen. Kevin Avard
Sen. John Reagan
Sen. Jeb Bradley
Sen. Martha Fuller Clark
Sen. Nancy Stiles
Rep. Ken Weyler
Rep. Glenn Cordelli
Rep. Jeanine Notter
Rep. David Murotake