State may mandate civics class

Taking course may no longer be an option


— Some students at Steamboat Springs High School take an optional civics course because they want to.

Next year, state law might make the course mandatory.

A bill proposed by Senate President John Andrews, R-Centennial, would require all Colorado high school students to pass a civics course to graduate.

But the bill has received scorn from school administrators and teachers, including Steamboat Springs Superintendent Cyndy Simms, who said graduation requirements should be made at the local level.

"It is up to each community and their locally elected school boards to decide graduation requirements," Simms said. The state constitution refers curriculum decisions to local school boards, she said.

"Colorado has always been a local control state, and I think it's been to the benefit of the students," Simms said.

Making school decisions locally is an important responsibility the Steamboat community takes seriously, Simms said.

"It puts the responsibility for the local schools on the local board and the people they hire," she said. "It makes them much more responsive to what the local community wants."

"The community already has high expectations for our students. If our community said, 'We'd also like our students to pass a civics course,' I think they would come forward and say that," Simms said.

School district graduation requirements already have been determined for the next three graduating classes. These requirements are the result of an exhaustive process by the high school and community members, Simms said.

If the proposed bill passes, adjusting Steamboat's graduation requirements would require more than simply adding a revised line to a school board policy, Director of Content Standards Kelly Stanford said.

"We would have decisions to make," Stanford said. "We don't wave the magic wand and change graduation requirements."

The bill could necessitate an additional teacher, staff training or even the possibility of cutting an existing course or courses, Stanford said.

"It does have the potential to impact staffing," she said.

State content standards already require civic lessons throughout a student's kindergarten through 12th grade education, Stanford said.

SB 36, which passed the Senate Education Committee by way of a 6-1 vote, is scheduled for a second reading today before the entire Senate.


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