Lawmaker Appointed as Coordinator
State Rep. Sally Kern has been appointed to lead an effort by the Oklahoma House of Representatives to give Oklahoma students the chance to learn about government from their own state representatives.Kern, R-Oklahoma City, is heading up the House’s America’s Legislators Back to School Program, which is being coordinated in part with the National Conference of State Legislatures.According to the NCSL Web site, the program encourages elected officials in all 50 states to meet personally with young constituents and answer questions, share ideas, listen to concerns and impart a greater understanding of the legislative process.“As a former high school teacher, I know this is a fantastic program for our students to learn about Oklahoma’s and our nation’s political process first-hand from their state legislators,” said Kern.More than 1,600 legislators participate each year in the program. The program is coordinated annually during the third week of September with legislative coordinators from each state organizing the event.The NCSL asks that each chamber in each state Legislature appoint a coordinator for the program. The coordinator encourages and facilitates member involvement in the program.Kern was appointed to the position by House Speaker Todd Hiett who considered her the right person for the job because of her background teaching government for 20 years.
Kern already is gearing up for the 2006 program by attending the NCSL’s Legislators Back to School Training Conference in Dallas on October 7-10.“I am looking forward to gaining more insight into this program so Oklahoma’s program can become better,” said Kern.The Back to School program was introduced in 1999 by NCSL as a one-day event. That one day was such a great success and so well-received by legislators and schools that it turned into a one-week event in 2001.A study conducted by www.civicyouth.org showed that in the 2004 election, 47 percent of the 18 to 24-year-olds exercised their right to vote, which is up from 33 percent in the 2000 election. The Legislators Back to School Week emphasizes the importance of involvement and the value of a representative democracy.“This program is designed to reach all students at all levels from K-12th,” said Kern, R-Oklahoma City. “I want all Oklahoma students to become more active in their state government.”Kern plans to kick off the 2005 House Back to School Program during the first week of November.“I am very excited to get this program started,” said Kern. “We have many different tools including videos, handouts and others to make this a fun learning experience for all.”