JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Senate Education committee heard testimony on bills that would require high school students to pass an exam given to immigrants in order to graduate.
The bills revise current Missouri law that requires high school seniors to take an exam about the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions. Instead, they will take an exam similar to the test taken by naturalized citizens.
The civics test is designed by the United States government. The tests required by current law are produced by the state.
Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Callaway County, is the sponsor one of the bills. She said this bill takes the future of this country into account.
"For our government to function properly for years to come, our children and grandchildren must be active and knowledgeable participants," Riddle said. "If the citizens of this state and country choose not to be knowledgeable or at least active participants then our government will never be of the people, by the people, and for the people."
The test is one hundred questions and a passing grade of at least 60 percent is required.
"If our future generations can show they have a certain level of competency in the way our federal government works, why it works that way and the basic geographical and historical facts then we will have a base knowledge to take part in our government system," Riddle said.
The bill allows students to take it as many times as necessary to pass it. Riddle said despite the change in exams, teachers are doing their job.
"I think our teachers are teaching the appropriate information for students to become competent in these areas," Riddle said. "The question then becomes are the current tests sufficient to validate that they truly know their government and how it works. I think the evidence shows they are not and it's because they don't take it seriously."
Retired social studies teacher Bill Erling said he doesn't think the tests need to be changed.
"This test is designed for immigrants who are just learning our culture," Erling said. "It was not designed for most students who have lived in the United States all of their lives. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service test does not require any knowledge of Missouri's Constitution. We have that requirement now. If we adopt this law that will go by the wayside."
Erling said it is important for students to apply their knowledge to a local government.
"Students would not have to know anything about state or local government. I believe it is important for students to have this knowledge to be able to exercise the knowledge with the governments closest to them - state and local," Erling said.
The Senate committee took no action on the bills.