There were two pieces of legislation passed this year that were the direct result of high school students approaching their state legislator with an idea. One of the ideas was to declare an official state dinosaur. The other idea allowed local districts to hold an election if they wanted mandatory seat belts on school buses.
Even though students may not be old enough to vote, they are never too young to make a difference. We hope to strengthen the communication between students and their legislators every September in our annual #takeyourlegislatortoschool campaign.
In the 2015 Regular Session the Arkansas General Assembly passed a resolution designating September as annual “Take Your Legislator to School Month”. In addition to helping students learn more about the legislative process, this bipartisan initiative was also motivated by a need for members to fully understand the issues and challenges facing public schools in their districts. In addition, it gives districts an opportunity to showcase innovative solutions developed by our educators.
The resolution encourages public school districts to plan special events with their local legislators. Examples could include allowing legislators to visit classrooms, read to students, or present guest lectures. Districts could also sponsor panel discussions in which administrators, teachers, and students discuss issues facing their schools. We believe any activity that engages and involves legislators in the work of their public schools would be beneficial to both the district and to the legislator.
We devote over 43 percent of all net available General Revenue to K-12 education. Our education committee hears testimony hundreds of bills every session and studies our progress continually in the interim. Relationships with teachers can help provide us with the valuable insight needed to vote in a manner helpful to students and teachers.
On our website, www.arkansashouse.org, we have a section titled “Kids in the House”. There you will find all the materials your local school district will need to take advantage of this opportunity. In the materials we have included a spreadsheet listing the members who represent all 257 districts in our state.
We look forward to seeing your classroom soon. And students, be ready with your ideas. You just never know if your idea will be the next legislation to land on the Governor’s desk!