A Rule for Some: Legislators Care More about the Civics Education of Traditional Public School Students
Over the past month, there’ve been a few opinion pieces (here, here, for example) about how today’s youth are lacking proper civics education. It’s been this low rumble for quite some time now—so much so, that Indiana had a bill about it last legislative session.
It could be that “we who complain” aren’t in the classroom to exactly know what’s really going on.
Or it could be that there just isn’t enough time in the day with the many government mandates on our teachers’ and students’ plates. Nonetheless, federal and Hoosier legislators know that civics education is important and it is even a part of our national and state constitutions.
In order to get an Indiana state-recognized high school diploma (general, Core 40, etc.), students must take American government—it's the law. Furthermore, Dennis Kruse et al., (SEA 132 2019) amended the Indiana education code last spring to ensure that Hoosier students must also now take the U.S. naturalization test and study more about the Holocaust as “an enhanced study.”
Are these rules the best way to ensure civics education happens? Maybe? It’s best to ask an educator. They are the experts.
But, did you know that these rules are not being applied equally to all schools that accept public funding?
It’s important to note two things.
1. The naturalization test is not required in charter schools and private schools. That new bill passed this year only applies to school corporations, a.k.a. “traditional public schools.” Only “school corporations” are mentioned in that part of the bill and the general counsel of the IDOE confirmed that charter schools and voucher schools do not have to administer the naturalization test.
2. Private schools that accept vouchers must teach civics. The bottom half of page 2 of the Choice Scholarship School application indicates parameters a private school must agree to in regards to providing civics education. These parameters are pulled from the Indian’s code for mandatory curriculum.
Even studying the Holocaust and 9/11 is a requirement.
Concerned this is not happening? It's up to parents of private school students to ensure that these parameters are being followed. Parents must ask their children, teachers, and administrators. IDOE resources are limited and they have very little authority over private schools in general.
Why does our state care more about the civics knowledge of our public schools over other accredited schools that issue the same state-approved diplomas? Why is this a rule for some but not for others?
You’re going to have to ask your state legislators.
Vice Chair, Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County