Civics test for high schoolers advances in the Senate

COLUMBIA — A bill that requires high school students to demonstrate the same basic knowledge of American history, laws and government institutions as immigrants trying to become citizens cleared its first hurdle on Wednesday.

The Senate K-12 Education Subcommittee voted unanimously in favor of the bill.

The plan has substantial backing in South Carolina. It’s being pushed by three former governors — David Beasley, Jim Hodges and Dick Riley — and it’s named for a fourth, James Edwards, who died last year.

South Carolina students wouldn’t have to pass the test to graduate from high school like they would in Arizona and North Dakota. About a dozen other states also are considering mandating similar civics proficiency tests.

The test would be taken in 11th-grade government class, and students who got more than 60 of the test’s 100 questions right would get a certificate. Schools would have to report overall results to the state.

Immigrants have to pass a shorter test with questions pulled from the pool of 100 about the U.S. and its history before they can become citizens, and more than 90 percent pass, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891.