On 21 Mar. 2018, a new bill supporting civic education was signed into law in Washington State. The bill will require this year’s freshmen to take a standalone civics class as a requirement for graduation in hopes to increase young people’s knowledge of government.
Because RAHS is a smaller school than some others in the district, it can be difficult to add new classes. Counselor Katie Carper will play a large part in incorporating the new mandatory Civics class into the master schedule. Even if some classes have to be sacrificed to meet the requirement, RAHS will be able to continue to provide most of the specialized classes that make the school unique.
“We don’t know yet [how it will affect the schedule] except that any time we have to add a new class, we have to look really hard at the other social studies classes we teach and see which ones are required and which are not,” said Carper. “The social studies requirements in Washington State have always been pretty confusing, so we’ll need to take a look at that. I don’t know specifically how, but it will definitely affect the master schedule.”
Washington State Board of Education representative Linda Drake expressed that although the new requirements may be difficult for some schools, civics often gets lost or minimized in a US history class and it is essential for youth to learn about these topics.
“I understand that the state often asks schools to do very difficult things,” said Drake, “but I doubt if anyone would really argue whether civics is an important content area for students to learn.”
Even though updates were made in the 2018 version of the bill, a prior version from 2009 demonstrates the state’s perspective on the issue.
“Preparation for citizenship is as important as preparation for college and a career, and should take its place as a requirement for receiving a high school diploma,” according to HB 2132, Chapter 223, State of Washington Laws of 2009.
Drake ensures that specialized schools like RAHS will be able to continue supporting their missions not only in spite of, but because of new requirements like these.
“I know that there are some schools like [RAHS] that are doing some really exciting and innovative things and the intent of these things is not to interfere with that,” said Drake. “I know that it is a challenge but I would encourage schools to look at flexibilities within the system to be able to work with the curriculum that [they] stand behind.”
Looking at flexibility is exactly what RAHS has to do when it comes the other unfunded mandates such as the new increased art requirement; the class of 2021 will need a second art credit in order to graduate.
“We are adding at least 60 more seats of art [for students] per year so between that and the fact that our students can do some outside school options, I am hopeful that that will be sufficient,” said Carper. “Students are going to need to choose art classes over other classes if they need two credits of art.”
Even though students might have to make difficult choices, the school is lucky to have the resources that they do to provide opportunities that they do.
“We always have students who can’t get a class they want or need. We can’t just say ‘hey there’s this need, lets hire a teacher.’ We have to think about our budget and ask for money,” said Carper. “But I count my blessings that we’re here and that so many of us have been here a long enough time that we’re able to be creative.”