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Some Utah County sixth-graders believe Utah lawmakers should have to visit a public school before sponsoring or voting on new education laws.
So the kids spent an afternoon lobbying for the idea at Utah's Capitol one day last week.
Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, met with 10 students from Sierra Bonita Elementary School. The students presented her with an essay calling for the creation of an annual Legislator Education Day, in which lawmakers would visit schools in their respective districts sort of a tit for tat for all the visits students make to Capitol Hill during the legislative session.
"It would help them make better-informed decisions," sixth-grade student Rachel Wasden said. "They'll be able to see what we're doing and make laws based on that, instead of just making laws based on what they hear or they think is right."
The idea of mandated, or even encouraged, classroom visits is not new to the Utah Legislature. In 2012, Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, sponsored a resolution inviting lawmakers to spend 16 hours each year in public school classrooms and self-report on those visits for public review.
The resolution was amended several times before ultimately failing in the Senate.
Henderson applauded the students for their initiative. She told them the deadline had passed to open new bill files for the 2015 legislative session, but added that there may be other options for pursuing the proposal.
"I will see if there's something we can do."
During floor debate, Henderson introduced the Sierra Bonita students and asked her Senate colleagues for permission to open a resolution file. Her request was granted by a voice vote that included several "nay" voices.
"It's a great idea to have legislators spend more time in the classroom," Henderson said.
The effort this year may be largely symbolic. Resolutions are nonbinding and Henderson's measure has not moved in nearly a week.
Still, Sierra Bonita Principal Mike Larsen said he was proud of the pupils, who all serve on the school's student council.
"They are motivated to make change," Larsen said. "They would love to have an impact statewide."
The principal said he welcomed the idea of having lawmakers in schools. By observing classrooms, he said, policymakers would benefit.
"They'd be better able to understand," he said, "what our needs are, what our strengths are, what they could do to support us in education and what they can do to help the children."
Michelle Wasden, mother of Rachel Wasden, said it was "marvelous" to see her daughter interacting with a state senator. She said Rachel hopes to go into politics one day, and Henderson is a great role model.
"She really listened to them," Wasden said, "and she asked great questions."