Monte Benham, of Kennewick, is convinced that people know very little about the U.S. Constitution and next to nothing about the state constitution.
“Elected officials swear an oath to uphold the state constitution, and most of them have never even seen it, let alone read it,” he said.
Benham, who worked with Tim Eyman on several tax initiatives, would like to fix that knowledge gap with the current generation of school children, requiring them to learn about the two constitutions and the Declaration of Independence in fifth, eighth and 10th grades and pass a test before graduating high school.
To do that, he and supporters of Initiative 1058 will need about 250,000 like-minded citizens to sign petitions, and for voters to approve the initiative to the people in November.
The group paid for copies of the initiative to be inserted in The Spokesman-Review on Wednesday as a way to generate more signed petitions, which must be turned in by the beginning of July.
The initiative calls for schools to teach the relationships among those documents and other things like the Pledge of Allegiance and the Gettysburg Address. Students would also be required to know some of the important words in the documents, such as despotism, providence, tranquility and consanguinity. (The last one means blood relationship, in case it comes up on some future test.)
It also requires they learn about initiatives: “Students shall be taught the inherent right of the people to elect government officials and enact or reject, at the polls, legislation independent of the Legislature, and to approve or reject, at the polls, any law passed by the Legislature.”
The initiative calls for standardized tests, although Benham said this week he didn’t know of an adequate test that exists right now. The schools would have to come up with one, he said.