BACK TO SCHOOL WEEK - SEPTEMBER 18-22, 2006



What is the Legislators Back to School Program?

Your Ideas Count....That's the message lawmakers will bring to students across the country when they visit classrooms during Legislators Back to School Week, September 18-22, 2006. Every year, Texas senators and representatives join in a nationwide effort to promote civic education and the involvement of young people in the legislative processes necessary for developing effective public policy. This is an opportunity for legislators to let students know that their ideas count.

Lt. Governor and Senator Kyle Janek in a classroom at Pat Neff Elementary School

Why have a nationwide program?

State government has a significant impact on the lives of citizens of all ages but only 33 percent of voters 18-24 years of age participated in the last election. Besides their lack of interest in voting, students are less proficient in civics. The Back to School program is designed to educate young people about what it is like to be a state legislator: the processes, the pressures, the debate, and the negotiation and compromise. It will encourage active involvement in the democratic process and show that participation does affect public policy.

Senator Ogden spends time with visiting students

When?

Back to School Week -- September 18-22, 2006 (but visits are encouraged throughout the year)

How to Schedule a Classroom Visit?

1. If you have already read about America's Legislators Back to School Week, you may want to look over the lesson plans to know what type of activity you'd like your students to focus on.

2. If you don't know which legislator to contact, go to who represents me. There you will find your district and the names and telephone numbers of your state senator and representative.

3. Invite a senator or representative into your classroom. It is recommended that you contact a legislator by phone at least three weeks prior to September 18 - 22. If they don't return your phone call immediately, don't give up. Besides their public service, most legislators have full-time jobs and family responsibilities. Each Texas senator has approximately 675,000 constituents and each representative has 139,000 constituents, so you can certainly understand that they are inundated with calls and letters on a daily basis.

4. Once your visit is confirmed, contact:

to receive a video (if you are a secondary teacher), which demonstrates the importance of our nation's youth civic responsibilities. A copy of the video Your Ideas Count will be mailed to you for student viewing prior to and in preparation for your legislator's visit.

Craig Estes, a state senator, addressed the
fifth-graders at Seguin Elementary School in
Weatherford in October 2002. "He was really good,"
said a student named Jessica. Later in the day, Estes
attended a town hall meeting at Weatherford College,
where ar

5. After the legislator's visit, please return the completed evaluation forms. This will help us know how successful the program is and what we might like to add or change in the future.

6. Your participation in this civic education program is appreciated. You can help make a difference in the attitudes and actions of our nation's future voters and leaders.

7. Questions and Suggestions: Please contact Patsy Spaw, Secretary of the Texas Senate, at (512) 463-0100 or by email or Carol Castlebury at (512) 463-0466 or by email.

Background

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is a bi-partisan organization providing services to state lawmakers.

The Back to School Program is a part of NCSL's civic education initiative: the Trust for Representative Democracy. The goal of the Trust is to strengthen understanding and support for American democratic institutions. The Back to School Program is designed to involve young people and educate them about the democratic process.Kids in Class

Young people need to know that their ideas count when they get involved. Getting involved means paying attention, voting, joining groups, contacting officials, and advocating interests.

While getting involved is important, citizens need to understand how their political system works and what they can expect from it. Understanding civic involvement means understanding that America is a diverse society and not everyone agrees and not everyone gets what they want in the area of public policy. Back to School Week can be a good beginning in getting citizens of all ages to make the first step toward getting involved.