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American constitutionalism bill likely won’t change JSD curriculum

Posted: April 2, 2011 - 10:10pm

The Juneau School District isn’t likely to do anything differently if a House bill on American constitutionalism becomes law, as the district already offers what the bill seeks.

The House Education Committee on Wednesday moved forward with House Bill 5, which will require students to take a course on American constitutionalism in order to graduate. The course must include education on the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Constitution, Bill of Rights and the freedom and ideals of American constitutionalism.

The bill was moved forward with Rep. Peggy Wilson, Rep. Lance Pruitt and Rep. Alan Dick, voting “do pass,” Rep. Scott Kawaski and Rep. Eric Feige adding amendments and Rep. Paul Seaton voting “do not pass.”

The bill now moves to the Finance Committee.

The amendment removed the testing requirement initially drafted in the bill.

JSD Assistant Superintendent Laury Scandling said without the testing requirement, the district won’t need to change anything if the bill passes in its current format.

“In our district, all students are required to take a government class for a full semester prior to graduation,” she said. “I can tell you from having taught government for many years, American constitutionalism is the heart of that class.”

It focuses on the founding documents, but also includes mock trials with supreme court cases and an “extensive study of American constitutionalism.”

Scandling said the elements of the statewide curriculum proposed in the bill have been in place in the district for more than a decade.

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development also already has those standards in place through its statewide content standards. It is specifically addressed in section B, with nine key areas a student who earns a diploma should know. Those areas include the distinctions of law in the American political system, the ideals through founding documents, the different branches of government and the importance of how everything is structured and functions.

It is also addressed in section D more in depth with the students’ ability to analyze how the Constitution plays a role in domestic politics, foreign policy and economics.

“I don’t think it would part ways too differently for what we’ve been doing for many, many years,” Scandling said. “Civics education is one of the top three goals of our district. In our district, you can’t graduate without passing a government class. I would suspect this is just a special emphasis on something we have recognized as central and important for quite some time.”

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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