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Senate committee advances bill requiring all Wyoming high school students to pass citizenship test

Top line of the United States Constitution viewed at a slant. "We the People" in large calligraphy on faded paper.

Wyoming's Senate Education Committee advanced a bill that would require all Wyoming students to pass a citizenship test before receiving their high school diploma.

The bill requires students to score 60 percent or higher on the 100-question test.

Some spoke in favor of the bill, including the Wyoming Farm Bureau. But the Wyoming Education Association said it was unnecessary.

The association's Tate Mullen said the state Board of Education already has a rigorous standards-setting process — and that it's planning to take up social studies standards next year.

"That standard setting process utilizes wide stakeholder engagement, including parents, educators and citizens," Mullen said during a committee meeting Wed. Jan 18. "And we don't feel that the legislature should circumvent a process that has worked incredibly well for our students, districts and educators across the state."

He added teachers are asking for less required testing, not more.

The bill originally required several more years of instruction on the constitution specifically. But that was removed with an amendment. Now the bill simply requires that students pass the citizenship test before receiving their high school diploma.

Ken Decaria, director of government relations for the Wyoming School Boards Association, spoke against the bill, saying it sets "an extremely low bar."

"In this test, it would ask you how many branches of government are there? What are the three branches?" he said during a follow-up committee meeting Fri. Jan 20. "It's a good thing to know, but I would want students to know why we have three branches of government and what the purpose of those three branches of government are — not just that there are three branches of government."

The bill will now head to the Senate floor for further debate. It must pass three readings before it can be handed over to the House.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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