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Off to school

Legislators around the country left the statehouse for the schoolhouse earlier this month to promote the importance of civic education. Arizona, California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Ohio lawmakers participated in the first "America's Legislators Back to School Day," sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The goal of the program is to teach students about the process of legislative democracy.

Massachusetts Sen. Dianne Wilkerson visited Madison Park High School in Boston, where a group of 45 juniors and seniors conducted a simulated committee hearing on the high cost of car insurance.

The Boston Democrat wanted to impress upon the students the impact state lawmakers have on their lives. So she began her visit by asking the students whether they knew who determined the number of school days each year. "Hardly any understand at the outset that it is state law," she said.

Bucking a trend

Despite a recent poll showing that nearly half of Michigan voters support a ballot proposal that would offer vouchers to students in failing school districts, Gov. John Engler says the measure has "no hope of passing."

Unlike many of his fellow Republican governors, including George W. Bush of Texas, Mr. Engler has distanced himself from the voucher idea, saying he supports efforts to improve the existing public schools.

The governor made his comments Sept. 18 at a Republican leadership conference attended by both foes and supporters of a statewide push for vouchers.

A nonprofit group, Kids First! Yes!, is seeking to collect 300,000 signatures to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November 2000. The proposal would offer tuition vouchers worth roughly $3,100 to children in schools where fewer than two-thirds of students graduate.

Mr. Engler believes the proposal could detract from current programs, spokesman John Truscott said. "The governor has to do all he can to keep the reform movement going within the public school setting."

Matt Latimer, a spokesman for Kids First! Yes!, said the group is more concerned about the children who would be affected by the proposal than by what politicians think of it.

--Michelle Galley & Jessica L. Sandham

Vol. 19, Issue 5, Page 21

Published in Print: September 29, 1999, as State Journal

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