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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dean Urdahl (R)

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Rep. Urdahl’s civics proposal on brink of becoming law

Wednesday, May 17, 2023


ST. PAUL – Legislation Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, authored to re-emphasize civics in our schools is one step from becoming law.

Urdahl’s proposal requires civics to be offered as a course for credit to Minnesota high school juniors or seniors. It was included in this year’s final omnibus education package (H.F. 2497), which this week received approval by both the House and the Senate and has been presented to Gov. Tim Walz for enactment.

Urdahl indicated a de-emphasis of civics in schools throughout the nation has contributed to an erosion of knowledge on the subject. Current reports show fewer than one in four Minnesota high school graduates are proficient in their knowledge of government, he said, necessitating action.

“We have learned if civics is not a requirement in schools, it is not taught,” Urdahl said. “And if civics is not taught, you end up with more and more citizens lacking a basic understanding of how our government functions. There already is evidence this is undermining our constitutional republic and we owe it to our future generations to stem this trend. My proposal helps to ensure our students will have a functioning knowledge of civics as they graduate high school and transition into more advanced roles in society and government. That will go a long way to preserving the foundation of our state.”

Urdahl, a former longtime New London-Spicer social studies teacher, has spent the last seven years working to advance legislation that sharpens the focus on civics in Minnesota’s schools.

“There is a lesson in this, and that is to be persistent if you believe you can make things happen,” Urdahl said. “We’ve worked on this proposal through Democrat and Republican majorities alike and I’m thankful that, in this bill, it’s finally there, because it’s needed. The National Assessment of Educational Progress shows we dipped another two points in the proficiency of civics education in Minnesota – we’re now at 22 percent and that is unacceptable.”

Another education provision Urdahl authored to mitigate student violence received preliminary approval from the House but did not survive a conference committee that put the package in final form.

“There are violent episodes where staff and teachers are victims and my provision would have provided reasonable resolution,” Urdahl said. “My proposal didn’t stick with this bill, but this problem needs to be addressed and I hope we can do that soon. Our teachers and staff deserve to have protections in place.”