SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would require high school students take a semester of civics education prior to graduation.
Senate Bill 513 was carried by Republican lawmakers, but it passed the chamber with widespread bipartisan support in a 25-3 vote.
The Oregon Department of Education already has standards in place for civics and government studies, but the bill ensures that students receive dedicated class time over a semester-long course. Students will need to complete at least a one-half credit in civics to receive a high school diploma, though that requirement does not apply until 2026.
“This is an important and timely piece of legislation,” said Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod. “The past year has shown how government decision-making can deeply impact lives and livelihoods – for better or for worse. As kids return to school, it's important they understand the ins and outs of how decisions get made and how they can be involved. This is a good, bipartisan bill that I urge our colleagues in the House to pass.”
Republicans said that the bill has broad support from educators, Oregon business leaders, government officials, and other citizens.
“Oregon teachers support this bill because we know that civics instruction prepares students for their imminent participation as voters, as working adults, and as citizens in their communities,” said Kevin Lepley, President of the Oregon Council for the Social Studies. “There is inequity in civics education where some students receive dedicated focus on the subject while others receive limited instruction scattered across multiple social science classes. This inequity has real implications for our students and our society and it must be addressed.”
The bill now goes onto the Oregon House of Representatives for consideration. The House version of the bill is introduced by Democratic Rep. Paul Evans.
“We are either serious about civics education and pass this legislation or we are going to continue to kick the can down the road and we are going to continue to see a public that does not know how to vote for their own self-interest because they don’t understand how government works," said Rep. Evans. "Now is the time to pass this bill and I look forward to working with my fellow representatives to advance SB 513.”