NJ Senate passes bill to require civics classes in middle school

New Jersey

School classroom with blackboard

TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey Senate passed bipartisan legislation Thursday that would require classes on civics to be taught in the state’s middle schools.

The bill passed by a vote of 33-0 with both sides calling the legislation important. The bill would direct the state;’s department of education to require at least one course specifically in civics or United States government as part of the social studies credit requirement for middle school graduation.

The bill — which would be named “Laura Wooten’s Law” for the late Laura Wooten, a woman from Mercer County who passed away in March of 2019 and holds the record as the longest, continuously serving poll worker in the United States — would also direct the New Jersey Center for Civic Education at Rutgers to prepare curriculum guidelines and provide professional development for high school teachers integrating civics, economics and the history of New Jersey into United States history courses.

According to the New Jersey Center for Civic Education at Rutgers, only 39% of schools in the state voluntarily offer a civics course to all students.

Sen. Troy Singleton, a Democrat from Burlington County, referenced the Capitol breach earlier in January as reinforcing the need for the classes.

“The events that transpired on Jan. 6 represent one of the darkest days in American history. It not only showed the dark underbelly of our nation, but also the vital importance of civics education. We need to properly educate our young people so they can become critical thinkers that are able to discern truth from fiction.”

Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean agreed that the courses were important to American democracy.

“Civics education helps foster an understanding and appreciation of our democracy,” said Sen. Kean. “All students should have the opportunity to learn about the function of government, the rights of citizens and the values that underpin American democracy. This legislation will give students the skills and knowledge they need to actively participate in a democratic society.”

The bill awaits Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature.

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