What an amazing trip to Olympia!
After studying the election process last fall, we were invited to by one of our guest speakers, Legislative Asst. Kate Burke, to Olympia to meet with Senator Andy Billig, and tour the capitol. She then passed along information for a program called Capitol Classroom; we applied, and were then selected as one of 12 schools in the state to be part of the program. This program connects us with a lobbyist who part-personal-tour-guide, part-teacher, part-voice, as we examine current topics we care about (we have focused on school nutrition and issues around juvenile justice and homelessness), and then find a bill we can support and back (this is done via Skype meetings). We decided we wanted to meet our lobbyist and see the process in action, and take Ms. Burke up on her invitation to meet a senator! We were fortunate enough to find several other connections through these first two people, and set meetings up with nine different state politicians, lobbyists, and legislative assistants for our time there in late February. We had a busy and informative few days! By pure chance, we were lucky enough to be on the House floor to hear testimony and the voting (and passing!) for HB 1843: the education funding bill. One of the most exciting meetings we had was with State Superintendent of Public Schools, Chris Reykdal. We were the first school group he hosted since taking office. The students had prepared questions surrounding school nutrition, graduation rates, and testing. As a former high school teacher, he was a dynamic speaker: patient, clear, and witty, with his responses to their questions, and our students were highly encouraged by his vision for public schools. It was a wonderful, highly educational, trip, and we are grateful for the opportunity to see civics in action. Oh, and much of our trip was facilitated by Mt. Spokane graduate and Lobbyist Zak Kennedy!