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South Dakota lawmaker seeks new civics literacy program

January 15, 2019

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota lawmaker proposed a new state program to recognize students who graduate from high school with a strong understanding of civics.

The bill introduced Tuesday would create the South Dakota state seal of civics literacy program. Students at participating schools who meet the program’s requirements would have a reproduction of the state seal attached to their diploma and a note added to their grade transcript.

Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch, the sponsor, said the proposal was patterned after an Arizona measure and it’s aimed at improving civics literacy among South Dakota children.

“I want them to have a better understanding of our founding documents, a better understanding of Supreme Court cases that, you know, impact our lives,” Deutsch said. “I want them to know about ... both the state and federal constitution.”

The proposal comes as Republican Gov. Kristi Noem plans to bring legislation to require high school graduates to be able to pass the U.S. citizenship test. A spokeswoman for the governor, Kristin Wileman, said in an email that Noem is happy to see others recognizing the “need and value for civics education.”

Noem and her team will review the measure in the coming days, Wileman said. Deutsch said it would go hand-in-hand with Noem’s proposal.

Under Deutsch’s bill, the state Board of Education Standards would establish the requirements for a student to receive the state seal of civics literacy; they would have to exceed current social studies graduation standards.

The measure would require the board to get advice from educators who teach history or social science at South Dakota secondary schools.

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