Update to American civics requirements amended, returned to final round

A bill on final reading that would update social studies requirements for Nebraska schools was amended March 15 after lawmakers voted to return it to select file.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist01' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Julie Slama'>Sen. Julie Slama</a>
Sen. Julie Slama

Peru Sen. Julie Slama, sponsor of LB399, has said the bill would be the first major revision of the state’s civic education standards since the Americanism statutes’ adoption in 1949. The law requires school boards to appoint three members to a committee on Americanism, which approves textbooks used in the teaching of American history and government.

As amended on general file, LB399 would require each school district to incorporate into its curriculum either an exam based on the the 100-question civics portion of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization test or a civics-focused project, paper or presentation.

Senators voted to return the bill to select file to consider an amendment offered by Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas that would exempt from those curriculum requirements students receiving specialized instruction for limited English proficiency who have been receiving such instruction for less than two years.

Any student receiving special education services for whom the curriculum would conflict with his or her individualized education plan also would be exempt.

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte opposed the amendment, saying a student whose IEP conflicts with any of those options already would be exempt. Although the amendment was well-meaning, he said, it might prevent some English language learners who are immigrants from preparing for a test they will take if they choose to become citizens.

The amendment failed on a vote of 21-20.

Lawmakers also agreed to consider a technical amendment offered by Slama to clarify language and fix grammatical errors.

Following adoption of Slama’s amendment on a 41-0 vote, senators then re-advanced LB399 to final reading by voice vote.

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