California high school senior Kristen Schleicher didn't need a civics class to learn about how a bill becomes law. She's experienced it firsthand.
Last fall, the 16-year old student at Monte Vista High School in Danville, Calif., won an essay contest titled "There Ought to Be a Law," sponsored by state Assemblywoman Lynne C. Leach. As the top prize winner, Ms. Schleicher has seen her suggestion to require that schools replace outdated textbooks wind its way through the legislative process, being repeatedly modified along the way.
In its current form, the measure would ask school boards to publicly adopt a report on the status of instructional materials every year. "The really great thing about this bill is that it will really make people aware of what's in the classrooms," Ms. Schleicher said.
The student said it wasn't always easy to watch her original idea get altered, but that she understands the political realities behind the changes. She recently wrote Gov. Gray Davis and urged him to sign the bill into law. Mr. Davis, a Democrat, has not yet said whether he will do so.
"I think that everyone wants better textbooks," said Ms. Schleicher, who said at a legislative hearing that she once used a chemistry textbook that was older than she was.
Ms. Leach said she sponsored the contest to get young people more engaged in the political process. Ms. Schleicher's essay was chosen from among 104 other submissions because it stood the best chance of becoming legislation, the Republican legislator said.
"School boards are currently required to review books every two years to ensure that they align with standards," Ms. Leach said. "But we didn't have anything in place saying what they had to do with the information. Now, we're asking for a public report."
—Jessica L. Sandham
Vol. 20, Issue 2, Page 23