FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Legislation designed to improve civics education in Kentucky’s schools was approved by the House Education Committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 138 is sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who says it differs from many earlier versions, by setting guidelines to include core material that must be taught, rather than banning curriculum many deem controversial. It also seeks to educate students on the foundations of America’s principles through the inclusion of primary source historical documents

He told the panel, there have been numerous changes to the original legislation. “Changes that were made to accommodate others.  Changes to accommodate educators, accommodate parents’ needs, accommodate students, and to accommodate the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

SB 138 extends existing elementary history standards to middle and high school and reflect concerns and feedback from educators and parents alike, Wise said. It incorporates references to key people, events, struggles, challenges and continued successes that have cemented American democratic principles of equality, freedom and individual rights. Through studying a baseline of 24 primary source core historical documents, students will learn to think critically about the founding of the nation and how to think rather than what to think. 

The baseline documents outlined in the bill include 24 core documents recognized by the Ashbrook Center, which includes work from various social studies scholars and promotes inducing young people to the real story of America, the good and the bad, through primary documents.

“By choosing those 24 American documents and putting those in place,” wise testified, “it allows educators to have sources to go to. There is nothing in the bill that tells an educator what you can or cannot teach.”

He noted that there is a civics crisis, not only in Kentucky, but the United States. “I do not blame teachers for that, but I look at things that get cut many times from our standards, and many times get cut in education, and it is civics education.” 

Speaking against the measure was Kate Miller from the ACLU of Kentucky. She told the committee that she was pleased at changes made in the bill, it does not go far enough. Senate Bill 138 serves as a way to censor speech. It is a government censorship bill.”

The bill passed the committee 15-6, and now heads to the House floor.