Ohio lawmakers strike deal on historical documents

ANN SANNER Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) â€" An Ohio legislative panel approved a compromise Tuesday to a bill that would require students in grades 4-12 be taught the original texts of the state and U.S. constitutions, the Declaration of Independence and other documents.

The bill, which also directs that high school students be tested on the documents, is now freed up to clear the state Legislature as soon as Wednesday.

Different versions of the legislation passed both Republican-led chambers last year, but the Senate in January rejected the House changes to the measure. That sent the bill to a conference committee, where a group of legislators have been working out their technical differences.

The compromise clarifies that the bill wouldn't require any additional end-of-course examinations other than what's already in the works by the state Department of Education. Legislative analysts had said it wasn't clear whether the House changes to the bill would have required the creation of an additional test. They had estimated that the extra exam could cost the department between $2 million and $2.5 million.

Tuesday's agreement spells out that high school students would have to take just two end-of-course examinations â€" one for American history and another for American government, and there wouldn't be an additional cost.

The compromise also changes what portion of the high school exams most be devoted to the documents.

Under the House-passed version, the bill would have required that at least 25 percent of the end-of-course examinations in American history and American government cover the historical documents mentioned.

A change offered by the bill sponsors on Tuesday would require that at least 20 percent of the American government exam relate to the founding documents by 2013-2014 school year. They didn't outline a specific percentage for the American history exam, only that it would have to address the historical texts.

The legislation has been met with criticism, particularly from black Democrats who have said the included documents were culturally narrow. Those lawmakers and other opponents have objected to the bill's failure to list the Bill of Rights, Emancipation Proclamation and other historical texts.

The compromise instructs the state Board of Education to make available a list of suggested grade-appropriate supplemental readings that place the documents in their historical context.