The Oregon Senate has voted to ensure that every Oregon high school student will receive one semester of civics education before they graduate. The Oregon Department of Education provides standards for civics and government education. However, without designated and focused class time, that content is often relegated in disparate fashion to other social studies courses. This bill will allow teachers to provide a robust, dedicated civics course that will ensure all students receive a strong grounding in the established civic standards. The bipartisan bill was carried by Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod (R-Stayton) and passed on a 25-3 vote.
“This is an important and timely piece of legislation,” said Leader Girod. “We are living in a time where nearly one-third of Americans are unable to name any branches of government and recent events underscore the urgency of improving our collective civic literacy. Despite that, Oregon is one of only 11 states that do not currently require a civics education class for graduation This bill will help ensure our young Oregonians have the tools that need to be active and productive participants in our representative democracy and I applaud my colleagues for passing this bill.”
The legislation enjoys widespread and bipartisan support from teachers and leading Oregon businesses and organizations, government officials, college and university faculty, and concerned citizens — nearly 600 of whom — have signed onto letters calling for the passage of SB 513.
“Oregon teachers support this bill because we know that civics instruction prepares students for their imminent participation as voters, as working adults and as citizens in their communities,” said Kevin Lepley, President of the Oregon Council for the Social Studies. “There is inequity in civics education where some students receive dedicated focus on the subject while others receive limited instruction scattered across multiple social science classes. This inequity has real implications for our students and our society and it must be addressed.”
SB 513 now moves to the House of Representatives.
Representative Paul Evans (D-Monmouth), who introduced the House version of the bill, called for quick action. “We are either serious about civics education and pass this legislation or we are going to continue to kick the can down the road and we are going to continue to see a public that does not know how to vote for their own self-interest because they don’t understand how government works. Now is the time to pass this bill and I look forward to working with my fellow representatives to advance SB 513.”