Joe Foss Institute

Wall Street Journal: AZ First State to Pass Citizenship Exam

by JoeFossInstitute on January 16, 2015

Gov. Ducey Signs Bill Requiring Students to Score 60 out of 100 on Citizenship Exam to Graduate

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill requiring students to pass the U.S. citizenship exam in order to graduate from high school.

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

By Caroline Porter

Updated Jan. 16, 2015 11:42 a.m. ET

Arizona legislators Thursday passed an education bill that requires students to pass the U.S. citizenship exam in order to graduate from high school, becoming the first in the nation to do so.

After the state’s House majority leader formally filed the bill on Monday, the state House and Senate fast-tracked the American Civics Act through the legislature in the first week of its legislative session.

Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed the bill into law Thursday evening. “Send it to my desk, and I’ll sign it immediately,” he had said in his state of the state address earlier this week.

Under the law, high-school students will need to answer 60 of 100 exam questions correctly to graduate from high school.

The bill is part of a larger campaign by the Civics Education Initiative, an affiliate of the Joe Foss Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit based in Scottsdale, Ariz., to mandate the U.S. citizenship exam in schools around the country. The group said that 18 additional states are reviewing similar bills, noting that the North Dakota House of Representatives also passed a civics-education bill Thursday.

“Proud day for Arizonans as we become first in the nation, and lead the way to the bipartisan passage of the Civics Education Initiative in every state,” said Frank Riggs, president and chief executive officer of the Joe Foss Institute.

About two-thirds of students tested below proficient on the civics portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in both 2006 and 2010.

Write to Caroline Porter at

Arizona First in Nation to Pass Civics Education Initiative

by JoeFossInstitute on January 15, 2015

Large, Bipartisan Majorities Show Support for the First Step in a Rebirth of Civics Education

Phoenix, Arizona – With large, bipartisan majorities in the State Legislature, Arizona today became the first state to pass the Civics Education Initiative. The Civics Education Initiative requires high school students, as a condition of graduation, to take and pass the USCIS Citizenship Civics Test – the test all new immigrants must pass before becoming citizens.

“Proud day for Arizonans as we become first in the nation, and lead the way to the bipartisan passage of the Civics Education Initiative in every state,” said Frank Riggs, President and CEO of the Scottsdale-based Joe Foss Institute, the organization promoting the legislation.

Beyond Arizona, eighteen other states are currently considering this critical legislation. North Dakota and Utah appear to be next in line, with legislators and supporters in those states eager to follow Arizona’s lead, with the North Dakota House of Representatives also passing the bill today by an astounding 85-1 margin.

The leadership of the Joe Foss Institute and the Civics Education Initiative would like to extend special thanks to Governor Ducey, prime sponsor Majority Leader Steve Montenegro (R-13), House Government and Education Committee Chairman Bob Thorpe (R-6) and the members of his committee, and Minority Leader Dr. Eric Meyer (D-28).

In the Senate, special thanks go out to Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough (R-17), Senate Education Committee Chairman Kelli Ward (R-5) and the members of her committee, Senator Barbara McGuire (D-8), and Senator Carlyle Begay (D-7).

“It’s a New Year, and a new day for students here in Arizona and across the country who will now have the basic tools they need to become active, engaged citizens,” concluded Riggs.
The bill passed the Arizona House by a vote of 42-17. In the Senate the results were similarly positive, with 19 for and only 10 voting against.

Arizona’s Former US Senators, Co-Chairs of Civics Education Initiative, Praise Governor Ducey’s Call for Civics Education Requirement

Bill Requiring Civics Test for High School Graduation Readied for Bipartisan Legislative Action

 Phoenix, Arizona:  Governor Doug Ducey made his campaign promise to require that Arizona high school students pass a civics test as a graduation requirement a major priority of his first State of the State Address today. In his speech to a joint meeting of the state legislature, Governor Ducey called upon the legislators to make civics education legislation the first bill to reach his desk.

The Civics Education Initiative (CEI), a project of the Civics Proficiency Institute affiliated with the Scottsdale-based Joe Foss Institute, would require high school students to take and pass the 100 question US Citizenship Civics test – the same test all new US citizens must pass. Recent statistics show 92% of immigrants seeking US citizenship pass the test on their first try, while a study of Arizona high school students showed a passing rate of less than 5%.

Said Arizona’s former U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini, “I’m pleased to see bipartisan legislative support building for the Civics Education Initiative and thank Governor Ducey for making it a high priority. Quick and overwhelming passage will ensure civics as a priority for Arizona’s students, and will demonstrate that our legislature can work in a bipartisan manner on an important matter.”

Senator DeConcini, a Democrat, co-chairs the Arizona Civics Education Initiative effort along with former US Senator Jon Kyl, a Republican, and Arizona business and community leaders Norman McClelland, Jim Chamberlain, Sandy Froman, John Christian, Lucian Spataro and Karrin Taylor.

With legislative action likely this week, Arizona is poised to be the first of some 15 states likely to take action on the Civics Education Initiative in 2015. A recent poll in Utah showed 80% of voters favor the initiative, with national surveys showing similarly high voter approval.

“Governors, legislators, veterans and concerned citizens across the country are getting involved to pass the Civics Education Initiative in their states. Thanks to the strong leadership of Governor Ducey, Republican House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro and Democratic Representative Catherine Miranda among many others, Arizona is primed to be first in the nation in passing this vitally important legislation,” said Frank Riggs, President and CEO of the Joe Foss Institute.

The goal of the Joe Foss Institute, through its Civics Proficiency Institute affiliate, is to pass the legislation in all 50 states by September 17, 2017 – the 230th anniversary of the United States Constitution.

Concluded Arizona’s former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, “The Civics Education Initiative is a quantifiable first step to ensure all students are taught basic civics about how our government works, and who we are as a nation. We hope other states will follow Arizona’s example to ensure that every future high school graduate is ready for active, engaged citizenship.”

To learn more about the Civics Education Initiative movement and to take the US Citizenship Civics test, please visit



Former U.S. Congressman to lead JFI

by JoeFossInstitute on January 6, 2015

The Joe Foss Institute Board of Directors is pleased to announce today that Frank Riggs has been tapped to lead the Institute as President and CEO.

Frank will also head JFI’s affiliate, the Civics Proficiency Institute (CPI), which has launched a national campaign called the Civics Education Initiative to encourage all 50 states to adopt the United States Citizenship Civics Test, the test all new U.S. citizens must pass, as a condition of high school graduation.

He succeeds Dr. Lucian Spataro, who has joined an on-line education technology company as its president and COO. Spataro will remain on the JFI and CPI boards, and serve as co-chair of JFI’s annual fundraiser, Stars in Service.

“I look forward to the challenge and opportunity to build on the solid foundation at JFI,” Frank said. “As CEO, my priorities will be expanding and branding JFI as the national leader for civics education, advocacy and engagement, and inspiring future generations to public service.”

JFI Board Chairman Sandy Froman said, “While I am saddened that Lucian has chosen to depart, I am ecstatic that he is remaining on both boards and that we have someone of Frank’s caliber to fill his shoes. Frank brings years of leadership experience in the private, public and non-profit sectors, and is ideally suited to take the Joe Foss Institute to the next level and move the Civics Education Initiative forward.”

Frank RiggsFrank, a 13-year resident of Scottsdale, is a former three-term U.S. Congressman from Northern California and a recent Arizona gubernatorial candidate. He is also an Army veteran and former police officer, and served as president and CEO of the national non-profit Charter Schools Development Corporation for eight years.


15 States lookng to pass Civics Education Initiative

by JoeFossInstitute on January 2, 2015

studentwithflagWith Indiana on board, the Civics Education Initiative, an affiliate of the Joe Foss Institute, is now active in 15 states!

Our goal is to pass the bill in all 50 states by September 17, 2017 – the 230th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution – because we can’t think of a better anniversary present than to ensure every U.S. high school student knows what it means.

Elvis was in the Building!

by JoeFossInstitute on December 22, 2014

Thanks to our friends at the National Constitution Center for this look into history!

The secret meeting was brief at the White House, and it involved a U.S. President and a King, of sorts. And even today, it generates more interest at the National Archives, in terms of image requests, than the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

5364-02So why are people so obsessed with what happened in December 1970, when presidential aide Egil “Bud” Krogh walked Elvis Presley into the Oval Office to meet Richard Nixon?

The seemingly spontaneous appearance at the White House on December 21 had stunned Nixon staffers earlier in the day, when the rock legend appeared unannounced at the White House’s gates. Presley and the leader of the free world chatted for a few minutes, posed for pictures, and then Presley, his two aides and Krogh grabbed lunch at the White House dining room, in front of a bemused crowd.

The King soon left after getting a special badge from Nixon. The story was kept quiet for 13 months, at Presley’s request. But columnist Jack Anderson broke the story nationally, and since then, the Nixon-Presley summit has become a legend.

One of the photos taken from the session has also achieved iconic status. It is available from the National Archives in various formats. (Unfortunately, the coffee mugs and T-shirts are out of stock online at the National Archives web store.)

There have been a few books written about the summit, one comedy movie filmed about it, and a new movie starts shooting this winter with Kevin Spacey starring as Nixon.

The whole idea of people popping into the White House was common back in the early 1800s. In one incident, Thomas Jefferson held an open house on New Year’s Day in 1802, which so inspired him that he finished a document called the Danbury letter that defined the separation of church and state in constitutional law. Another open house involving Andrew Jackson in 1829 ended up in a drunken riot of sorts.

But New Year’s Day receptions had ended in 1932 and the time had long past when someone could show up at the White House gates and request to see the President – unless you were Elvis Presley.

Jerry Schilling was with Elvis on that fateful day, and it recounted it in 2010 in a panel discussion at the National Archives with Krogh. Schilling was a former Presley employee who was working at Paramount studios.

Apparently, Schilling said Elvis had a disagreement with his family in Memphis over the number of Christmas gifts he was buying, and on a whim, he grabbed an American Express card and jumped on a plane to meet Schilling, after a brief detour to Washington.

“Jerry, I need you to come to Washington with me,” Presley told Schilling. Schilling arranged for the day off, called Graceland to tell Presley’s family he was safe, and the two grabbed a red-eye flight. Schilling didn’t know why they were flying to Washington.

On the flight, Presley bumped into Senator George Murphy, and he sat back down with Schilling. Presley wrote a handwritten note on American Airlines stationary, addressed it to President Nixon and requested a meeting at the White House.

At 6:30 a.m., Presley walked out of a limo and went up to the White House’s northwest gate, and handed the letter to the guards, who recognized Presley in his purple outfit.

Krogh said he then got a call from Dwight Chapin, Nixon’s scheduling secretary, saying, “the King is here.” Chapin had called Krogh since Krogh was working on drug policy issues for Nixon and Presley wanted to help President Nixon solved the illegal drug use problem. Krogh’s response was, “what King, there aren’t any kings on the schedule.”

Chapin sent the letter to Krogh, who called Presley’s hotel to confirm it was really Elvis who wanted to see President Nixon. Chapin also sent a memo to Bob Haldeman, who responded, “you must be kidding.” Nevertheless, Haldeman approved the summit.

Presley, Schilling and Presley’s bodyguard, Sonny West, then met with Krogh at the White House. Presley spoke about how he wanted to be made a “federal agent at large” and help in the war on drugs.

Krogh wrote talking points for the meeting, called Presley’s team and asked them to come over at 11:45 a.m. The Secret Service then took possession of a gift of a gun from Presley to Nixon when it screened the visitors.

The meeting happened at 12:30 p.m., with just Nixon, Presley and Krogh in the Oval Office, along with a photographer. Presley showed Nixon some family photographs and his collection of law enforcement badges.

Krogh took notes as the two men spoke. Presley talked about how anti-American the Beatles had been recently, his study of Communist brainwashing techniques, and his desire to get a Narcotics Bureau badge. After Nixon agreed to get the badge for Presley, he surprised everyone by hugging President Nixon.

Nixon then agreed to meet Schilling and West briefly, and more pictures were taken. Presley and his friends received some cufflinks as a gift from Nixon. The summit ended, and the Presley entourage went to the White House mess.

Krogh said jaws dropped in the dining room as Presley entered and sat down to eat as they waited for the badge to be delivered. Then Elvis left the building after receiving the badge.

Several years later, Nixon recalled the meeting in a 1990 TV interview.

“He was very flamboyant. I didn’t know much about him except what I read. He was a very shy man. Flamboyance was covering up the shyness,” Nixon said, who called Presley a “very sincere and decent man.”

Schilling summed up the appeal of the brief summit. “I saw the most powerful man in the world, … and I saw in a meeting the most popular person in the world. “

“The two connected and I think they really got the loneliness of their positions in the world,” Schilling said, adding that Nixon and Presley kept in touch after the meeting.

“If there is ever a true American story, I think that is one at the top.”

Scott Bomboy is the editor in chief of the National Constitution Center.

Bill of Rights Turns 223!

December 15, 2014

Celebrate the 223rd birthday of the Bill of Rights. Join online from 10 am to 3:30 pm for four sets of live events celebrating Bill of Rights Day. Authors will be discussing the Constitution and the historic figures related to it. Thanks to our friends at the National Constitution Center. Justice Brennan’s Fight to Preserve […]

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North Dakota Joins Push for Citizenship Test

December 4, 2014

North Dakota became the latest state to join the Civics Education Initiative. First lady Betsey Dalryumple, along with educators and lawmakers, unveiled the bill earlier this week. North Dakota joins seven other states, South Dakota, Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah currently pushing the test. The pending legislation would require high school seniors to […]

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