Civics has been restored as a priority in Minnesota schools, thanks to a provision included in this session’s education bill.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, and Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, authored the provision.

And while the language was loosened a bit in the process, it still made it into the bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz.

At issue is a concern that young people don’t know enough about the political processes that govern their lives. Urdahl said he wanted to ensure students are adequately prepared to be capable citizens able to fully participate in the political process.

Highlighting the issue is a report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress that shows less than 30 percent of students are proficient in civics, and that a significant gap persists among racial and ethnic groups.

The bill should have included stronger language, requiring juniors or seniors to take a for-credit civics class as part of the 3.5 social studies credits required in Minnesota high schools. Instead, the provision “encourages” school districts to have students earn credit for a course in government and citizenship in either the 11th or 12th grade as part of the 3.5 credits required for social studies.

Urdahl may have been a little disappointed that stronger language wasn’t included, but he said the measure is a step forward in giving civics a more prominent place in the classroom, even if the language is not as tough as he would prefer.

And he also pointed to the positive: “We reached a compromise that will move the needle on civics education.” He called the action progress, noting at one point the measure was stripped from the omnibus education bill.

“Restoring it to any degree was a win and I look forward to continuing efforts to help our children become proficient in government so they grow to be knowledgeable, civic-minded members of our republic.”

We, too, look forward hearing about ideas to provide our children with the tools they need to understand and guide local, state and federal government action into the future.

Recommended for you