Pa. House bill would require students to pass civics test to graduate | Monday Morning Coffee

March 29, 2021 7:09 am

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Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Can you answer any of these questions?

1. Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?
2. If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
3. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?
4. There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.
5. What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance?

All five of those questions are included in the citizenship test put together by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

And if one northeastern Pennsylvania lawmaker has her way, Keystone State high school students will have to answer those questions — or some variant designed by their local district — in order to graduate.

Rep. Karen Boback, R-Luzerne, says the “alarming decline in civics knowledge among young Americans,” was the motivation for her new proposal, which requires students in grades 7-12 to take the test, and receive a score of at least 70 percent, to claim their cap and gown on graduation day.

Students would be allowed to take the test as many times as is necessary to attain a passing grade, Boback wrote in a  March 24 memo seeking sponsors for her legislation.

Boback says her proposal would build on a 2017 state law that already requires schools to administer their own locally developed civics test. That statute, which was based on a bill that Boback also sponsored, doesn’t have a requirement for a passing grade, she wrote.

Districts could use the federal citizenship test entirely, or just use it as a guideline for their own exams, Boback wrote. Her proposal also would require school districts to put together lesson plans “dedicated to teaching of the importance and workings of the election process as it pertains to local, state, and federal elections,” she wrote.

“Considering the events of this past election cycle and the critical importance of free and fair elections to our democratic process, I believe it is essential to build upon,” the 2017 law, Boback wrote to her colleagues.

In an August 2019 survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, only 2 in 5 American adults (39 percent) could correctly name the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial). It was the best result in five years, according to researchers.

“It is my hope to ensure that students have at least a basic knowledge and understanding of civics and government in order to prepare and encourage them to be responsibly engaged citizens, and we believe that this legislation is an important and necessary step towards achieving this objective,” Boback wrote.

John L. Micek | Editor

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Associate Editor Cassie Miller
 leads our coverage this morning with this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket. In it, she takes a look at a recent study weighing the pros and cons of working from home during the pandemic.

Time is running out for Gov. Tom Wolf to make appointments to Pennsylvania’s short-handed Charter School Appeals BoardElizabeth Hardison reports.

Across the nation — and in Pennsylvania — a wave of Republican-backed voter restrictions is swelling, our partners at report.

People in Philadelphia — and beyond — will celebrate a national Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

New regulations improving staffing ratios at Pennsylvania’s nursing homes are expected this fall, but caregivers say they can’t wait much longer, Stephen Caruso reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Living with a disability is very expensive – even with government assistance, scholars at three institutions write. And white Republicans opposing statehood for Washington D.C. are more ridiculous than ever, opinion regular Dick Polman writes.

En la Estrella-Capital: Sitios históricos, museos alrededor del estado fijan fecha de reapertura, por Cassie Miller. Y Saylor a las escuelas: ofrecer clases en persona o perder fondos estatales, por Stephen Caruso.

Philadelphia City Hall (Image via

If you’re losing faith in politics, take a look at your local town hall — all’s well there, the Inquirer reports.
The Post-Gazette previews what’s shaping up to be a packed agenda for Allegheny County Council this week.
PennLive explains how trout season will be different this year when it opens this Saturday, April 3.
LancasterOnline looks at how Little Free Libraries have helped neighbors stay connected during the pandemic.
Spotlight PA looks at the state’s efforts to expand who’s eligible for the coronavirus vaccine (via The Morning Call).
The Citizens’ Voice looks at how local professional sports franchises are bearing up under the pandemic.
York County’s mass vaccination site has started administering shots, the York Daily Record reports (paywall).

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Tyree Bair (@them_greatbears422)

State Sen. Tim Kearney, D-Delaware, has reintroduced legislation banning no-knock warrants, WHYY-FM reports.
A state court has once again backed limits on abortion coverage, the Associated Press reports (via WESA-FM). 
Long-term care homes have started lifting pandemic-inspired visitors’ restrictions, the Observer-Reporter reports.
The operators of Erie’s Millcreek Mall have dropped their pandemic-motivated lawsuit against the Wolf administrationGoErie reports (paywall).
PoliticsPA grades last week’s winners and losers in state politics. explains how states’ pandemic budget surpluses could help pay for infrastructure repairs.
Roll Call 
has last week’s hits and misses on Capitol Hill.
Republican senators are defending the filibuster by accusing Democrats of playing the race card, Talking Points Memo reports.

What Goes On.
The House is out until April 5. The Senate returns to voting session on April 19. There’s only one committee meeting on offer: At 10 a.m., the House and Senate Democratic Policy committees hold a joint hearing on net neutrality.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to reader Joe Klepick, who celebrated on Sunday. Up to date best wishes go out this morning to reader Adam Klein, of Dauphin County, and to Kyle Kopko, director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. Congratulations all around, gents.

Heavy Rotation.
I’ve had this gem from first-wave Athens, Ga. band Love Tractor’s sophomore LP ‘Around the Bend’ stuck in my head sideways all weekend. Here’s Spin Your Partner.’ The video is just as charming as the tune. And it’s well worth your time.

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Washington got past the New York Rangers 5-4 on Sunday night. 
The Caps’ Alexander Ovechkin notched his 724th career goal on the way to win. He’s now eight games away from passing L.A. Kings great Marcel Dionne for the No. 5 spot.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.