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Arizona to require civics test to graduate high school

High school students in Arizona will soon be the first in the country required to pass a civics exam with the equivalent of a "D-" grade in order to graduate.

High school students in Arizona will soon be the first in the country required to pass a civics exam with the equivalent of a "D-" grade in order to graduate.

On Thursday, the Arizona legislature swiftly pushed through a bill that requires high school students to answer at least 60 out of 100 questions on the civics portion of the test posed to immigrants who seek U.S. citizenship.

To say the bill sailed through the Arizona legislature is an understatement -- it all went down in a matter of hours. In a fast-tracked emergency action, the legislation began with education committees Thursday morning. By midday, the bill was making its way through both the state House and Senate. Later that evening, the approved legislation was on Gov. Doug Ducey's desk awaiting his signature.

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State Rep. Steve Farley, a Tucson Democrat, said the state's rush to pass the bill and begin implementing the test was merely "whitewashing" the issues embedded in Arizona's educational system. In an interview with msnbc's Tamron Hall, Farley said Arizona schools have far more pertinent issues to address, from funding to over-crowded classrooms.

"This particular bill was passed as an emergency," Farley said of the push for a civics requirement, "and there doesn't appear to be any emergency to me."

Ducey is facing a $500 million deficit in his first term as governor and a $1 billion shortfall once the budget year begins in July. Many of the state's current budget woes stem from a court order requiring the state to give schools millions of dollars in back payments after the state failed to implement a voter initiative to annually adjust funding for inflation. Ducey is already expected to implement a hiring freeze in initial efforts to balance the state's books. But first, he implored lawmakers, comes legislation for civics testing requirements.

Critics of the measure argue that the test is not an effective measure of a student's knowledge. Questions range from being overly simply, to needlessly convoluted. Others are easily proven as straight up factually incorrectSample questions include 'What is the "rule of law," "What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance?" and "Why does the flag have 50 stars?"

"It's insulting to civics teachers who are actually teaching the deeper concepts behind civics that could actually motivate kids to be more involved," Farley said.

Frank Riggs, President and CEO of the Scottsdale-based Joe Foss Institute, hopes for his organization to bring the requirement to all 50 states by 2017. So far Arizona is the first, with legislation pending in North Dakota.

“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,” Riggs said in a statement.

Could you pass the Arizona civics exam? Try this sampling of questions from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: