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Gwen Graham, Dennis Ross unveil new civics education push

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U.S. Reps. Gwen Graham and Dennis Ross have unveiled a bipartisan effort in Congress to boost civics education across the nation.

Graham, a freshman Democrat from Tallahassee, is teaming up with Ross, a Polk County Republican, to pursue a resolution encouraging high schools to administer a civics test to high school seniors. The questions are taken from the naturalization exams administered to new immigrants by the Department of Homeland Security.

“When I speak with young people across North Florida I’m encouraged by how smart they are and their excitement for a better future,” Graham said in a prepared statement. “We need to make sure they’re educated in civics and ready to participate in governing our great nation, whether that means using their First Amendment rights, their vote or by running for office themselves.”

“An increased emphasis on civic education must be made. I believe this test will help teach and inform the next generation in our communities about their role as citizens, increase students’ civic and constitutional knowledge, and improve the overall health of our republic,” added Ross, a former state lawmaker first elected in 2010.

Careful to avoid any backlash from the ongoing furor around testing in Florida and the nation, the test will not be mandatory.

Graham has a history of involvement with education as does her father, iconic former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham.

“Encouraging greater civic engagement has been a lifelong passion of my father’s since he performed his first Workday teaching a high school class in 1974,”  Graham said. “More recently, he’s authored a book on the subject and founded the Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. I’m proud to help carry on his legacy and work to get young people more involved in civics.”

Before she was sent to Washington via an upset victory over former U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in November 2014, Graham was an attorney for the Leon County School District.

Think you’re smarter than 12th-grader? See the 100-question test here.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at [email protected]

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