Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106

02/03/2016 08:00 AM House EDUCATION

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08:02:08 AM Start
08:02:39 AM SCR1
09:05:10 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
               SCR 1-CIVICS EDUCATION TASK FORCE                                                                            
8:02:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KELLER announced  that the only order of  business would be                                                               
CS FOR  SENATE CONCURRENT  RESOLUTION NO.  1(EDC), Relating  to a                                                               
legislative task force on civics education.                                                                                     
8:03:14 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GARY  STEVENS, Alaska  State Legislature,  introduced SCR
1, and began with a scenario  from historic times, 1787, when the                                                               
U.S.  Constitution  and  other formative  documents,  were  being                                                               
written to  create the republic  we know  today.  He  pointed out                                                               
that  keeping the  republic was  not assigned  to the  president,                                                               
delegated  to congress,  or directed  to the  courts, but  rather                                                               
placed in  the hands of every  person for which the  republic was                                                               
formed.    The   qualities  for  keeping  the   republic,  as  an                                                               
individual,  must  be passed  down  by  parents and  through  the                                                               
schools, which  are often considered the  guardians of democracy.                                                               
Civics  education ensures  that each  generation will  understand                                                               
and be  ready to  participate as  a member of  the republic.   He                                                               
emphasized  the  need for  an  engaging  curriculum, which  could                                                               
include:    U.S.  history, current  events,  and  simulations  of                                                               
government  functions.     Civic   education  is   not  currently                                                               
receiving  the  attention which  it  deserves,  he opined.    The                                                               
recent National  Assessment of Educational Process  (NAEP) scores                                                               
indicate that  only one-third of  students are proficient  in the                                                               
knowledge of  civics; two-thirds are deficient.   Preparation for                                                               
citizenship  is  one  of  the   foundational  principles  in  the                                                               
American  education  system.    Along  with  the  importance  for                                                               
preparing students for college and  careers, it is also important                                                               
to prepare them for citizenship.   He listed a number of benefits                                                               
that  have been  shown as  a  result of  civics education,  which                                                               
includes the probability  that a person is more  likely to engage                                                               
in  public debate,  take an  interest in  government issues,  and                                                               
register  to vote.    Without civics,  an  understanding of  each                                                               
individual's  responsibility, and  the process,  for keeping  the                                                               
republic  strong,  and democracy  in  action,  is lacking.    The                                                               
proposed resolution is a pathway to remedy the situation.                                                                       
8:07:48 AM                                                                                                                    
TIM   LAMPKIN,  Staff,   Senator  Gary   Stevens,  Alaska   State                                                               
Legislature, offered to provide members with a quiz.                                                                            
CHAIR  KELLER established  that  the quiz  mentioned  is the  one                                                               
immigrants,  who  are  aspiring  to  become  U.S.  citizens,  are                                                               
required to pass.                                                                                                               
8:09:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  VAZQUEZ asked  for  the  Senator's background  in                                                               
SENATOR STEVENS  reported that he  holds a PhD, and,  among other                                                               
experiences, taught  history and humanities at  the college level                                                               
for 25 years.                                                                                                                   
8:09:44 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. LAMPKIN reviewed the 12  members that would comprise the task                                                               
force to be assembled, as  established in the resolution, page 2,                                                               
lines  23-31,  and  page  3,  lines  1-9.    The  work  would  be                                                               
accomplished over the interim and  be reported to the legislature                                                               
in 2017.                                                                                                                        
8:11:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  asked  whether   there  is  intention  to                                                               
coordinate the task force meetings  within the same time frame as                                                               
the regular or a special  session of the legislature, to minimize                                                               
per diem costs.                                                                                                                 
MR. LAMPKIN  responded that frugality would  dictate that course,                                                               
but it has not been decided.                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS acknowledged  the  benefit  of coordinating  the                                                               
time frame for meetings.                                                                                                        
8:12:49 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ asked  for the rational of  having a judge                                                               
seated on the task force.                                                                                                       
MR. LAMPKIN answered  that the seat would be in  keeping with the                                                               
spirit of  representing the three  branches of the  government on                                                               
the  task force;  executive, legislative,  and judicial  branches                                                               
would all be seated.                                                                                                            
8:13:28 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  KELLER   pointed  out  that   he  has   sponsored  similar                                                               
legislation  to establish  a civics  curriculum  in the  schools.                                                               
The resolution being proposed differs  from the bill, however, it                                                               
would be good  to see a melding  of the issues into  one piece of                                                               
legislation.   Additionally, he reported having  recently visited                                                               
a  civics  class in  the  Matanuska-Susitna  School District  and                                                               
found  it  enlightening.   The  current  event topics  were  well                                                               
presented  and  the students  were  engaged,  but the  historical                                                               
aspects  of  the  founding  documents had  not  been  covered;  a                                                               
determination he  was able to make  by posing a few  questions to                                                               
the students.                                                                                                                   
8:17:30 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  read from  page 1, line  6, noting  that a                                                               
single course in civics is not the  goal, as it calls for a broad                                                               
based  approach   beginning  in  preschool  and   extending  into                                                               
college.   He  asked what  class requirement  structure the  task                                                               
force might consider.                                                                                                           
SENATOR  STEVENS said  it's difficult  to make  a civics  class a                                                               
requirement, but  aspects could  be incorporated into  any class.                                                               
He reported that,  in Boston, private industry  was approached to                                                               
support the  public school  effort, with good  result.   The task                                                               
force is  not expected to  create curriculum or  mandate specific                                                               
requirements and  assessments.   The intent  is to  bring parties                                                               
together to focus on the topic and consider possibilities.                                                                      
8:20:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON paraphrased from page  1, line 16, and page                                                               
2 lines 1-2, which read:                                                                                                        
     WHEREAS the state can help  ensure that schools provide                                                                    
     civil  service opportunities  for all  students through                                                                    
     the standards what schools set  and the assessments and                                                                    
     accountability measures the state chooses;                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked for clarity  as to how the WHEREAS is                                                               
to be implemented.                                                                                                              
SENATOR STEVENS  responded that  the intent is  to have  the task                                                               
force explore the issue, without creating mandates.                                                                             
MR.  LAMPKIN added  that the  specified language  was crafted  to                                                               
provide  latitude   for  incorporating  civics   activities  into                                                               
existing curriculum.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  opined that clarifying the  language would                                                               
be helpful.  Responding to Chair  Keller, he added that the focus                                                               
of the  task force is  unclear, and  the mention of  standards in                                                               
the WHEREAS could  be interpreted as a need  to rewrite standards                                                               
for inclusion  of civics curriculum.   The job of the  task force                                                               
would not be  to write standards, but rather to  explore means to                                                               
enhance what exists, he surmised.                                                                                               
8:23:30 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND turned  to page 2, line  8, to paraphrase                                                               
the language, which read:                                                                                                       
     (1) analyzing the current state of civics education in                                                                     
     the state;                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND  reported that an Anchorage  School Board                                                               
memorandum, dated March, 2011, indicating  a plan for development                                                               
of civics  education.   It mentions  integrating civics  into the                                                               
elementary  curriculum of  the core  subjects and  the arts.   It                                                               
appears  that school  districts, certainly  the Anchorage  School                                                               
District (ASD),  are already addressing  the issue  and statewide                                                               
coordination may be the next step, she opined.                                                                                  
8:24:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE COLVER  asked whether  Senator Stevens  expects to                                                               
be seated on the  task force, or his staff, to  take the lead and                                                               
chair the committee.                                                                                                            
SENATOR STEVENS expressed interest in being appointed.                                                                          
CHAIR KELLER opened public testimony.                                                                                           
8:26:19 AM                                                                                                                    
DR. LUCIAN SPATARO JR., PhD,  Chair, Educational Initiatives, Joe                                                               
Foss Institute,  testified on SCR1, paraphrasing  from a prepared                                                               
statement,   which   read   as  follows   [original   punctuation                                                               
       Mark Twain once said, "Citizenship is what makes a                                                                       
      republic."  Ask 10 adults what citizenship means to                                                                       
     them  and you'll  probably  get  10 different  answers.                                                                    
     Ask 10  kids the same  question and chances  are you'll                                                                    
     get a shrug of the shoulders.   Of course this won't be                                                                    
     the  case  for all  youth,  but  numerous studies  have                                                                    
     shown that  a vast majority of  America's K-12 students                                                                    
     lack  the basic  understanding of  how our  country was                                                                    
     founded, how it  is governed and what it means  to be a                                                                    
     citizen in our  democratic system.  One  of the primary                                                                    
     purposes of establishing  public schools, as envisioned                                                                    
     by  Thomas  Jefferson two  hundred  years  ago, was  to                                                                    
     inculcate  in our  youth the  civic virtues  that would                                                                    
     sustain  our  fledgling  Republic.   American  leaders,                                                                    
     from Jefferson  to Roosevelt,  knew that  informing and                                                                    
     engaging  the next  generation  of  Americans on  basic                                                                    
     civics  was  vital to  the  survival  of our  republic.                                                                    
     Unfortunately,  227  years  after the  signing  of  the                                                                    
     Constitution,  few American  students understand  basic                                                                    
     facts  about our  government, its  creation, or  how it                                                                    
     Former Supreme  Court Justice  Sandra Day  O'Connor has                                                                    
     termed this situation "the  quiet crisis" in education,                                                                    
     but  I  really  believe  it  is  the  quiet  crisis  in                                                                    
     America.  I'm  talking, of course, about  the crisis in                                                                    
     civics  education.    Our young  people  today  face  a                                                                    
     crisis of  knowledge and understanding of  our Republic                                                                    
     and the  liberties granted  in the  Founding Documents.                                                                    
     This civics education  gap is a casualty  of our hyper-                                                                    
     focus on reading, math, science and technology.                                                                            
     The Civics  Education Initiative  is a  simple concept.                                                                    
     It requires  high school students,  as a  condition for                                                                    
     graduation, to  pass a test  on the 100 basic  facts of                                                                    
     U.S. history  and civics taken  from the  United States                                                                    
     Citizenship  Civics  Test  -  the  test  all  new  U.S.                                                                    
     citizens  must pass  (91% of  immigrants pass  on their                                                                    
     first attempt).   The  goal is  to pass  legislation in                                                                    
     all  50  states  by  September   17,  2017,  the  230th                                                                    
     anniversary of the U.S. Constitution/                                                                                      
     The  Civics Education  Initiative  is a  first step  to                                                                    
     ensure all  students are taught basic  civics about how                                                                    
     our government works and who  we are as a nation; facts                                                                    
     every  student  should know  to  be  ready for  active,                                                                    
     engaged citizenship.                                                                                                       
     The Civics Education Initiative  was created in 2014 by                                                                    
     the  Joe  Foss  Institute,  a  non-profit,  nonpartisan                                                                    
     organization  focused on  closing the  civics education                                                                    
     gap   and   preparing   America's   youth   for   civic                                                                    
     The  Joe  Foss Institute  is  the  enduring vision  and                                                                    
     legacy of the  late Joe Foss, WWII  Marine Corps flying                                                                    
     ace  and Congressional  Medal of  Honor recipient,  who                                                                    
     founded JFI  in 2001 with  his wife, Didi Foss.   Since                                                                    
     then,  JFI   has  served  nearly  2   million  students                                                                    
     nationally   through   its  programs,   including   the                                                                    
     Veterans  Inspiring  Patriotism   (VIP)  program  which                                                                    
     recruits   and  trains   veterans  to   make  classroom                                                                    
     presentations in  elementary and secondary  schools and                                                                    
     deliver educational  materials including the  U.S. flag                                                                    
     and   copies  of   the  Declaration   of  Independence,                                                                    
     Constitution and Bill of Rights.                                                                                           
     Prior to becoming an  American citizen, immigrants must                                                                    
     pass a  test on  basic facts  of United  States history                                                                    
     and government.   Over 91%  of new immigrants  pass the                                                                    
     test on their first  attempt.  Unfortunately, the level                                                                    
     of knowledge  among everyday Americans and  our native-                                                                    
     born high school  students is far lower.   According to                                                                    
     a survey  by the  Annenberg Public Policy  Center, only                                                                    
     36%  of  Americans could  name  all  three branches  of                                                                    
     government.   Worse  yet, only  38% could  successfully                                                                    
     identify  which party  controlled  the  U.S. Senate  or                                                                    
     House of Representatives.                                                                                                  
     Nine states  passed the Civics Education  Initiative in                                                                    
     2015 (AZ, ND,  SD, UT, ID, TN, SC, LA,  and WI).  There                                                                    
     are  26 additional  states considering  legislation for                                                                    
     We've surveyed Republicans,  Democrats and Independents                                                                    
     from  across   the  country.    Americans   across  the                                                                    
     political  spectrum  overwhelmingly support  measurable                                                                    
     civics  education in  our  schools.   Over  70% of  the                                                                    
     public would  vote YES on an  initiative requiring high                                                                    
     school students to  pass the same civics  exam that all                                                                    
     immigrants must pass to become  US citizens in order to                                                                    
     graduate.   Additionally,  over  65%  of voters,  left,                                                                    
     right and  independent, said they  were more  likely to                                                                    
     support legislators who supported such a proposal.                                                                         
     Do  we   really  have   a  civics   education  problem?                                                                    
     Absolutely,  a number  of studies  and surveys  confirm                                                                    
     Americans  (and  young  people  specifically)  are  not                                                                    
     proficient in  the basics of  U.S. civics,  history and                                                                    
     geography covered on the  U.S. Customs and Immigrations                                                                    
     Services (USCIS) citizenship civics exam.                                                                                  
     What  percentage of  American high  school students  do                                                                    
     you think can  identify the presidents on a  penny or a                                                                    
     nickel?  A  recent study by the  National Assessment of                                                                    
     Educational  Progress showed  that only  14 percent  of                                                                    
     high school  seniors can  identify Thomas  Jefferson as                                                                    
     the  author of  the  Declaration of  Independence.   It                                                                    
     doesn't get better.   Only 9 percent of  4th grades can                                                                    
     identify  a picture  of Abraham  Lincoln  and list  two                                                                    
     reasons why he was important.                                                                                              
     According  to the  National  Assessment of  Educational                                                                    
     Progress, only 24 percent of  U.S. high school students                                                                    
     are proficient in civics, and  studies by the Annenberg                                                                    
     Public  Policy  Center  show  that   a  third  of  U.S.                                                                    
     citizens  can't name  even one  branch  of our  federal                                                                    
     Isn't   this   already   covered  by   existing   state                                                                    
     standards?   The  Civics  Education  Initiative is  not                                                                    
     intended  to introduce  new  academic  standards.   Its                                                                    
     purpose  is  to elevate  these  basic  facts about  our                                                                    
     republic as  the floor - not  the ceiling - of  what we                                                                    
     believe students  should know about how  our government                                                                    
     works  and  who  we  are  as  a  nation.    The  Civics                                                                    
     Education  Initiative isn't  just another  standardized                                                                    
     test.   Working to  learn the most  basic, foundational                                                                    
     facts about  our nation and  being exposed to  the same                                                                    
     test  all  new  immigrants  must take  to  become  U.S.                                                                    
     citizens  is  intended  to be  a  learning  experience.                                                                    
     This  is   the  civics   equivalent  of   knowing  your                                                                    
     multiplication tables.                                                                                                     
     The concept  would allow individual  districts, schools                                                                    
     and teachers to cover  these basic facts and administer                                                                    
     the test in a way  they deem adequate and constructive.                                                                    
     The test itself can  be folded into existing curriculum                                                                    
     and classroom activities so as  to reduce the impact on                                                                    
     class time.   For example, it could  be administered as                                                                    
     a pre-test  activity at  the start of  a course  or the                                                                    
     questions could  be split  up across  different courses                                                                    
     and units across several grade levels.                                                                                     
     There  is an  online testing  portal created  expressly                                                                    
     for  the  Civics Education  Initiative,  as  well as  a                                                                    
     variety of  free study guides.   Regardless  of exactly                                                                    
     how  each   school  implements  the   Civics  Education                                                                    
     Initiative,  it  clearly  would  be  a  very  different                                                                    
     experience  than  the  standardized  testing  model  in                                                                    
     which students are pulled out of class.                                                                                    
     This test  will put undue pressure  on school districts                                                                    
     and our  students.   That is  certainly not  the intent                                                                    
     and it is  a highly doubtful outcome.   The legislation                                                                    
     was   specifically  designed   to  provide   districts,                                                                    
     schools,   teachers    and   students    with   maximum                                                                    
     flexibility to  make the Civics Education  Initiative a                                                                    
     meaningful and achievable goal for everyone.                                                                               
     Nearly 92%  of new immigrants applying  for citizenship                                                                    
     pass this  test on their  first attempt.  I  would hope                                                                    
     our students  could do as  well or better.   Those that                                                                    
     don't  pass the  first time  can try  as many  times as                                                                    
     they  need and,  again, the  questions and  study aides                                                                    
     are already widely available and free online.                                                                              
     The initiative also promotes  local control and maximum                                                                    
     flexibility for individual school  districts.  In North                                                                    
     Dakota for example,  the law passed by  CEI allowed for                                                                    
     local  school  districts  to   determine  how  best  to                                                                    
     implement  the test,  rather than  relying on  a method                                                                    
     mandated by the state.                                                                                                     
     The initiative  is not intended to  be a one-size-fits-                                                                    
     all approach.   Instead,  it establishes a  baseline of                                                                    
     knowledge to  ensure that high school  students know at                                                                    
     least   as  much   about  the   fundamentals  of   U.S.                                                                    
     government  and law  as foreign-born  citizens.   It is                                                                    
     not a panacea or a silver  bullet, but is meant to be a                                                                    
     first step in the rebirth of civic education.                                                                              
     But isn't  this test just  rote memorization?   We need                                                                    
     our students  to be  thinking critically  and analyzing                                                                    
     why American  Government is set  up this way,  not just                                                                    
     reciting dates and facts.                                                                                                  
     If students  are to analyze and  think critically about                                                                    
     civics and  government, they  need to  first understand                                                                    
     the  basic facts  about  American  government.   Before                                                                    
     kids learn to read they need to know the alphabet.                                                                         
     How much will the test cost to implement?                                                                                  
     By   using  this   well-established   test  and   study                                                                    
     materials that are already  easily available online, as                                                                    
     well  as the  online test  portal provided  by the  Joe                                                                    
     Foss Institute,  several states  that have  passed this                                                                    
     into  law   have  estimated  no  fiscal   impact.    By                                                                    
     promoting  local control  and  maximum flexibility  for                                                                    
     individual  school  districts,  costs  are  eliminated.                                                                    
     Several states  are allowing local school  districts to                                                                    
     determine how  best to implement  the test.   By simply                                                                    
     avoiding  state-mandated   reporting  requirements  the                                                                    
     vast  majority  of  costs associated  with  taking  and                                                                    
     passing the test are eliminated.                                                                                           
     Do we really need a test for civics?                                                                                       
     The old adage  in education is, "If it is  tested it is                                                                    
     taught."   That means this  subject matter needs  to be                                                                    
     on a  test that counts.   Today, a test that  counts is                                                                    
     one that  is tied  to either graduation  or performance                                                                    
     for funding in the schools.                                                                                                
     For any educators  on the committee, I  have a question                                                                    
     for  you.   What is  the  most asked  question by  your                                                                    
     students during  a lecture?   "Is this  going to  be on                                                                    
     the  test?"   If you  say YES,  they all  lean forward,                                                                    
     take notes,  and are  engaged.  On  the other  hand, if                                                                    
     you say  NO, the  entire class leans  back and  you can                                                                    
     see  them relax  and drift  off.   As  this applies  to                                                                    
     civics and  our country,  we want our  students leaning                                                                    
     forward and engaged.                                                                                                       
     What about students with special needs?                                                                                    
     Most  states  that  have adopted  the  test  allow  for                                                                    
     exemptions  if deemed  appropriate by  a student's  IEP                                                                    
     Informing   and  engaging   the   next  generation   of                                                                    
     Americans on basic  civics is vital to  the survival of                                                                    
     our  Republic.   The people  who favor  this initiative                                                                    
     have widely differing political  beliefs, but one thing                                                                    
     we all  share is  the belief that  it is  important for                                                                    
     all  Americans to  know about  the first  principles of                                                                    
     our Constitutional government.                                                                                             
     We believe our children should  not only be expected to                                                                    
     have  a  basic  understanding of  the  principles  upon                                                                    
     which our nation was founded,  they deserve to be armed                                                                    
     with  that information  in their  adult  lives as  they                                                                    
     vote  for   representatives  who  will   make  critical                                                                    
     decisions  about the  future of  our nation,  our state                                                                    
     and  our  local  communities.    The  Civics  Education                                                                    
     Initiative is  an important first step  to ensure every                                                                    
     student is equipped with that knowledge.                                                                                   
     Help us  put civics back  on the front burner  where it                                                                    
     belongs so  our students  graduate as  actively engaged                                                                    
     and  responsible citizens.   Help  us put  civics on  a                                                                    
     test that matters.  On  behalf of our American veterans                                                                    
     who  have made  great sacrifices  to preserve  the many                                                                    
     freedoms  we all  enjoy,  I  ask that  you  join us  in                                                                    
     support  of this  legislation to  ensure that  all high                                                                    
     school students  learn these important facts  about our                                                                    
     government,    our     nation,    our     values    and                                                                    
     responsibilities   in    order   to    promote   active                                                                    
8:38:34 AM                                                                                                                    
DR.  MICHAEL  POLIAKOFF,  Vice   President  of  Policy,  American                                                               
Council  of  Trustees  and  Alumni  (ACTA),  paraphrased  from  a                                                               
prepared statement,  which read as follows  [original punctuation                                                               
     The  American Council  of  Trustees  and Alumni  (ACTA)                                                                    
     since its  founding in 1995  has been  deeply committed                                                                    
     to  the  imperative  of a  citizenry  that  understands                                                                    
     America's  free institutions  and  their  history.   We                                                                    
     believe  that  just  as a  quality  education  includes                                                                    
     requirements for  mathematics, science,  and expository                                                                    
     writing,  it  must  also  have  firm  requirements  for                                                                    
     knowledge  and  understanding  of our  institutions  of                                                                    
     Civic education  must be based  on civic  knowledge, an                                                                    
     understanding of  America's institutions  of government                                                                    
     and how they  developed.  I would like  to clarify this                                                                    
     point:     civic  engagement   projects  can   build  a                                                                    
     wholesome sense  of community responsibility,  but they                                                                    
     must never  substitute for  the civic  empowerment that                                                                    
     comes  from understanding  our  process of  government.                                                                    
     The proposed  legislation properly  starts with  a call                                                                    
     to  assess the  state of  civic education.   I  suggest                                                                    
     that  no student  should leave  high  school without  a                                                                    
     strong foundation  in United States  history, including                                                                    
     how  the  institutions   of  government  developed.  No                                                                    
     student  should leave  college,  especially a  publicly                                                                    
     funded  university without  a mature,  collegiate grasp                                                                    
     of American history and the  successes - and failures -                                                                    
     of   our  free   institutions.     This  is   essential                                                                    
     preparation  for  informed  citizenship.  Our  Founders                                                                    
     were  keenly  aware that  the  lifespan  of liberty  is                                                                    
     unlikely    to   be    long   without    well-informed,                                                                    
     participating  citizens.    Thomas  Jefferson  and  his                                                                    
     fellow  Commissioners  were  prescriptive in  the  1818                                                                    
     plan  for the  University of  Virginia:   "To form  the                                                                    
     statesmen,  legislators and  judges  …  to expound  the                                                                    
     principles and structure of government."                                                                                   
     I believe you all have  electronic copies of our recent                                                                    
     report, A  Crisis in  Civic Education.   I am  sorry to                                                                    
     report that  the results of  our 2015  Constitution Day                                                                    
     survey of civic knowledge  only confirm that findings I                                                                    
     shared with the Senate Committee  last year.  I want to                                                                    
     compliment  Dr. Spataro,  too, for  the excellent  work                                                                    
     that  the Joe  Foss  Institute has  done  to raise  the                                                                    
     nation's  consciousness about  the threat  to our  free                                                                    
     institutions  that   the  plague  of   civic  ignorance                                                                    
     The  findings  of  our most  recent  survey,  like  its                                                                    
     predecessors, which you can find  on ACTA's website and                                                                    
     like the  data you can find  on the website of  the Joe                                                                    
     Foss Institute, do not  bespeak an informed electorate.                                                                    
     The results  would be funny, were  they not terrifying.                                                                    
     (Slide  4).   These are  college graduates  who mistake                                                                    
     Judith Sheindlin (AKA  Judge Judy) for a  member of the                                                                    
     Supreme Court - and John Kerry, for that matter.                                                                           
     ACTA has  administered surveys since  1999.   These are                                                                    
     not  "College  Bowl"  or "Trivial  Pursuit"  questions:                                                                    
     voters who  do not  even know the  term lengths  of the                                                                    
     representatives they  elect are  unlikely to  be making                                                                    
     well-informed decisions.   (That is  an understatement,                                                                    
     of course.)                                                                                                                
     They are effectively disempowered  as citizens, and our                                                                    
     system of  education must be held  accountable for that                                                                    
     What  is the  remedy?   Again the  proposed legislation                                                                    
     properly looks  toward best practices in  other states.                                                                    
     I will  focus on  higher education,  it is  always best                                                                    
     for the  governing boards of colleges  and universities                                                                    
     to keep  their own houses  in order and  institute firm                                                                    
     requirements for civic knowledge.   But the legislature                                                                    
     can make its will known through resolution or statute:                                                                     
     Georgia, Nevada, and Texas  have legislation for public                                                                    
     universities  that   requires  all  students   to  take                                                                    
     coursework  or  pass   examinations  in  United  States                                                                    
     history  and  government.   And  looking  toward  K-12,                                                                    
     Arizona,   Idaho,   Louisiana,  North   Dakota,   South                                                                    
     Carolina,  Tennessee, Utah,  and Wisconsin  have passed                                                                    
     laws mandating that  students pass examinations showing                                                                    
     civic  literacy.   Alaska  does  well  to consider  the                                                                    
     practices of  states that  require coursework  based on                                                                    
     knowledge  and understanding  of the  primary documents                                                                    
     of  American  and  state  government  and  to  consider                                                                    
     similar standards for public higher education.                                                                             
     To repeated: community service projects  are part of an                                                                    
     important  ethic characteristic  of our  nation.   They                                                                    
     are  a key  part of  religious and  civic associations.                                                                    
     Schools  and  colleges  are the  unique  and  essential                                                                    
     place  for   teaching  and  learning   about  America's                                                                    
     history and  government, and this  legislation properly                                                                    
     looks  towards  schools.   No  other  institution  will                                                                    
     reliably  fill   the  gap  left  by   weak  educational                                                                    
     It is  my hope that the  initiative of SCR 1  will lead                                                                    
     to  a new  requirements K-12  and collegiate  that will                                                                    
     turn back  the dangerous  tide of historical  and civic                                                                    
     illiteracy now  so prevalent.   I admire  the important                                                                    
     initiative   the    Alaska   State    Legislature   has                                                                    
8:46:28 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON acknowledged that the witness calls for                                                                   
implementing a required curriculum and required class hours.                                                                    
The proposed  resolution doesn't  call for  that type  of action,                                                               
and he asked if the witness supports SCR 1.                                                                                     
DR.  POLIAKOFF  responded  that  every  institution  has  general                                                               
education  requirements, which  might be  used for  incorporating                                                               
civics lessons,  and opined it  is a  question of will  more than                                                               
cost.   He  pointed out  that NAEP  testing has  not administered                                                               
civics exams since 2014.                                                                                                        
SENATOR STEVENS  offered that  the task  force will  be assembled                                                               
without restrictions  placed on the outcome,  and required course                                                               
work may result, as an identified need.                                                                                         
CHAIR  KELLER mentioned  federal  law  that redirects  curriculum                                                               
development to the district level.                                                                                              
CHAIR KELLER closed public testimony.                                                                                           
8:51:03 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ reviewed contents  of the committee packet                                                               
that indicates  a shocking lack  of understanding  for government                                                               
operations  and  civics in  general,  and  read from  several  to                                                               
underscore the statistical findings.   She pointed out how unique                                                               
the  balance of  the U.S.  government is  among other  countries,                                                               
many  under martial  law, and  opined that  ignorance of  civics,                                                               
coupled with  a lack  of appreciation,  may result  in a  loss of                                                               
8:56:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON clarified  that some of the  points made in                                                               
the presentation  related to historical illiteracy  events versus                                                               
civics.   Only 34 percent  surveyed identified  George Washington                                                               
as a general  at York Town, and he  questioned whether historical                                                               
facts or  civic workings  are the  thrust for  the task  force to                                                               
study.   He asked  if history, as  well as  governmental workings                                                               
and civic  involvement are to  be considered "all one  piece," to                                                               
be addressed by the task force.                                                                                                 
SENATOR  STEVENS  said  extracting   history  from  civics  is  a                                                               
difficult undertaking given the integral  aspects, and it may not                                                               
be possible.   The task force will be without  constraint for how                                                               
to  approach the  topic,  and  input will  be  welcomed from  any                                                               
school that is already teaching civics.                                                                                         
MR.  LAMPKIN opined  that  the knowledge  of  history relates  to                                                               
understanding  civics, as  learning the  alphabet is  inherent to                                                               
9:00:32 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  KELLER referred  to page  2,  lines 23-30,  to review  the                                                               
make-up  of the  task  force appointments,  and  asked about  the                                                               
interest in having a seat for  a member of the National Education                                                               
Association (NEA) member.                                                                                                       
MR. LAMPKIN  reported that the  appointment was suggested  by the                                                               
other body as a representative for the teachers.                                                                                
CHAIR  KELLER said  he  would  like to  see  the NEA  requirement                                                               
SENATOR STEVENS  offered that twelve  may not be  enough members,                                                               
and additional seats could be added;  there is no concern for the                                                               
number of seats.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COLVER   echoed  Chair  Keller's   sentiment  for                                                               
seating  a union  member, and  named the  American Federation  of                                                               
Teachers as another organization to consider.                                                                                   
CHAIR KELLER  clarified his interest  in broadening the  scope of                                                               
the task force, which may be accomplished through adding seats.                                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01_SCR1_CivicsEd_TaskForce_HearingRequest_House.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
02_SCR1_CivicsEd_TaskForce_SponsorStatement_020915.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
03_SCR1_BillText_VersionP_16March2015.PDF HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
4a SCR1 Fiscal note.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
04_SCR1_FiscalNote_VersionP_09April2015.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
05_SCR1_ACTA_Presentation_Alaska_022515.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
06_SCR1_CEI_Presentation_Alaska_022515.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
07_SCR1_CivicsRenewalNetwork_Article.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
08_SCR1_FactsAboutCivicsLiteracy.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
09_SCR1_ACTA_Michael Poliakoff_Presentation06Feb16.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
10_SCR1_ACTA_Poliakoff_BIO.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
11_SCR1_ACTA_Report_A_Crisis_in_Civic_Education.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
12_SCR1_CEI Fact Sheet.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
12b_SCR1_CEI_FAQ.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
12c_SCR1_CEI_Testimony_DrLucianSpataro.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
13_SCR1_StuartThompson_Testimony_06Feb16.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
14_SCR1_StuartThompson_SupportFreedom.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
15_SCR1_StuartThompson_CitizensShouldParticipate.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
16_SCR1_StuartThompson_Enforce the Constitution.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM
17_SCR1_StuartThompson_Preteen-Parent.pdf HEDC 2/3/2016 8:00:00 AM