Rep. Jim Walsh introduces bill that seeks to protect K-12 civic education and discourse

Rep. Jim Walsh has introduced legislation that seeks to protect high-quality civic education curricula. Several co-sponsors have joined the 19th District lawmaker in filing House Bill 1807, which seeks to address the protection of quality civic education and academic discourse for Washington state's K-12 students.

Walsh, R-Aberdeen, notes that the bill acknowledges important — and, in some cases, difficult — discussions taking place about the current education system in Washington state.

“The state's Superintendent of Public Instruction has recently complained that too many Washington families are removing their children from the state's public schools. Speaking like a bureaucrat, he frames this problem in budgetary terms. He's asking the Legislature for more money,” said Walsh. “Instead, we need to see the recent trends in unenrollment for what they are: a notice from the state's families that we need to provide a better education for their kids. House Bill 1807 is an important step toward providing that better education.”

Walsh's bill acknowledges that:

  • As described in the state Constitution, it is the “paramount duty” of the state government to provide a uniform, high quality basic education to all kindergarten through high school students in the state, regardless of their location, background, or circumstance;
  • A growing number of parents and families of Washington's kindergarten through high school students have become discouraged by the radical rhetoric of some state consultants who speak of their goals to “destabilize” and “tear down” the state's basic education system and curricula; and
  • In order to provide uniform, high-quality education, the state needs to reassure the parents and families of public school students that Washington state's basic education system and curricula have not been torn apart but are still vibrant and designed for full academic discourse and discovery without mandated politicization in the classroom.

House Bill 1807 would clarify the state's goals in teaching K-12 students about Washington state's — and the United States' — history, institutions, economy, population, and social structures.

The 19th District lawmaker notes these goals aim to provide Washingtonian K-12 students with a high-quality civic education.

“In our ongoing debate over what's being taught—and what should not be taught—in our public schools, we need to state clearly and firmly what we're for, not just what we're against. This proposal sets in place a system for giving Washington's children a deep, rich and practical understanding of the nation and state in which they live. This instruction gives them the tools they need to participate in their government and enrich their communities,” observed Walsh.

Starting with the 2022-23 school year, the bill would require each public school to provide kindergarten through eighth-grade students with a mandatory stand-alone, year-long course in civic education.

The bill includes the following requirements to support the students' functional understanding of:

  • The fundamental moral, political, and intellectual foundations of the American experiment in self-government and Washington state's role in that noble experiment;
  • The history, qualities, traditions, and features of civic engagement in the United States and in Washington state;
  • The history of indigenous peoples of Washington state and the Pacific Northwest region; and
  • The structure, function, and processes of government institutions at the federal, state, and local levels.

Among others, Walsh's proposal would also require each public school to provide age-appropriate instruction about the following founding and historical documents of the United States:

  • The Declaration of Independence;
  • The United States Constitution;
  • The Federalist Papers;
  • Adam Smith's “The Wealth of Nations;”
  • The second of John Locke's “Two Treatises of Government;”
  • The transcript of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate;
  • The Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850;
  • The Indian Removal Act;
  • Thomas Jefferson's “Letter to the Danbury Baptists;”
  • Frederick Douglass's “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” an American Slave;
  • The Emancipation Proclamation;
  • Martin Luther King Jr.'s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream” speech; and
  • The United States Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

Walsh's bill also includes a section that would prohibit teachers and school employees from being forced to teach or support controversial academic theories that describe the United States or Washington state as fundamentally or structurally racist or bigoted.

“There's been an awakening among parents and families of school-age children in this state. These families are taking a more active interest in how our public schools are run. In what our public schools are teaching Washington's children.

“This may make some bureaucrats uneasy — but it is, from the long-term perspective, a good and healthy thing. This bill deserves serious consideration this session. It's good for students, families and future generations of Washingtonians,” concluded Walsh.

The 60-day legislative session began Monday, Jan. 10.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov