America's Legislators Back to School Program
Guidelines for State Legislative Coordinators
Slated to "kick off" the third week of every September, the America's Legislators Back to School Program gives elected officials in all 50 states the opportunity to meet personally with their young constituents and to answer questions, share ideas, listen to concerns and impart a greater understanding of the legislative processes necessary for developing effective public policy.
Sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the bipartisan program is designed to teach young people--the nation's future voters and leaders--what it's like to be a state legislator: the processes, the pressures, and the debate, negotiation and compromise that are the very fabric of representative democracy.
NCSL encourages flexibility in implementing the program in your state. Legislators and teachers are encouraged to schedule the classroom visits at times throughout the school year that work best for everyone involved. We do not target any particular grade level for the program, although different states or individual legislators may wish to target specific grade levels. Please note that legislators are encouraged to visit and work with individual classrooms rather than addressing large assemblies.
State Legislative Coordinators should develop a state-specific work plan that includes the following activities:
Recruit legislators to participate
Coordinate with the education community
Review and distribute resource materials
Coordinate media outreach
Attend a coordinator training session
Assist with program evaluation
Recruit legislators to participate. Personal contact with legislators has proven to be an excellent way to encourage involvement. NCSL has provided a draft letter for leaders to send to all members encouraging participation in the event. A public service announcement (video) from students encouraging a visit from a legislator is also available.
Coordinate with the education community.
NCSL has obtained endorsements from premier education associations and organizations. State coordinators should contact the associations to develop a state-specific plan for getting legislators into the schools. We recommend that school administrators, principals or teachers call and invite the legislators into the schools rather than requiring the legislators to set up this activity themselves. Legislators are however welcome to schedule their own classroom visits directly with their district's schools. Coordinators will need to provide specific instructions for legislators based on your state's plan for getting legislators into the schools.
Review and distribute resource materials prepared by NCSL.
NCSL makes available, free of charge, publication and video resource materials for high school, middle/junior high school and elementary school students to be used by state legislators visiting classrooms in conjunction with the program. Online lesson plans for teachers are also available. Coordinators are responsible for ordering materials from NCSL and then assembling and distributing to legislators participating. Please contact NCSL at email@example.com for ordering information.
Coordinate media outreach. NCSL's national publicity for this event will focus on the third week of September as the "kick-off" for the program that will run throughout the school year. NCSL has prepared a promotion strategy and a press release for use by legislators and the legislature's public information officers. Coordinators should work with legislative public information officers to develop a state-specific media strategy.
Attend a coordinator training session. NCSL will offer coordinator training sessions. Coordinators will be notified regarding the specific date, time and location of the sessions.
Tag along. If at all possible, coordinators are encouraged to go along with one or more legislators to the schools during the program. This will help both coordinators and NCSL improve the program in future years. It would be helpful to have photographs of legislators in the classroom for future promotions in your state and by NCSL.
Assist with program evaluation.
NCSL has prepared evaluation forms for legislators, state coordinators, teachers/principals and students. Online, printable and downloadable versions are available. In addition, coordinators should track legislator and student participation and report those numbers to NCSL.
For more information on the America's Legislators Back to School Program, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (303) 364-7700.