Minda McCandless's sixth grade social studies class got a crash course in state politics last month from CFM staff members Elizabeth Slater and Joel Fischer. During three class periods at Portland's Gilkey International Middle School, Fischer and Slater covered the basic functions of government, the specifics of the Oregon legislature and how a bill becomes law. In March, the students will go to Salem to present legislators with their opinion about a bill of their choosing.
Fischer and Slater work with CFM's state lobby team, and they were invited to do the presentations after Slater presented to McCandless's class last year about Ballot Measures 66 and 67.
Students researched two bills that the legislature will consider during the 2011 session, and they were assigned to choose whether to support or oppose the bill. About three-quarters of the class chose to research Senate Bill 536, the plastic bag ban sponsored by Senators Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, and Jason Atkinson, R-Central Point. The rest of the class wanted to research Senate Bill 303, which would revise Oregon's tax "kicker" law.
Students spent the third class debating these two issues. The students, who are veteran debaters, exercised thoughtfulness and proper debate etiquette as they tried to convince their classmates of their points.
In March, students will travel to the state Capitol to talk to legislators about the two bills.
“Those students are incredibly bright,” says Fischer. “Yeah, they might even change the minds of some legislators with their persuasive arguments,” echoed Slater.