Technology to Bring Legislative Process to High School Students : Education: Videotapes from the Capitol and electronic town hall meetings will give youths a chance to learn more about state government.


Using videotapes and interactive town hall meetings, the Legislature plans to begin bringing state government closer to high school students through an innovative statewide teaching project called “LegiSchool.”

The project, which will be operated in partnership with Cal State Sacramento, will use videotapes of legislative floor sessions and live town hall meetings broadcast from the Capitol.

The idea behind LegiSchool is to encourage students to engage in dialogue and debate on real problems affecting Californians.

“This project will provide students with a firsthand activist approach toward examining key legislative issues that affect their lives,” said Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco). “It will establish an engaging window on state legislative affairs for high school students.”


Here’s how LegiSchool will work:

Gavel-to-gavel tapes of Assembly and Senate floor sessions and committee hearings will be sent to the university for editing into hourlong videotapes on key issues.

The university will produce a written curriculum to go along with the videotapes, which will be deposited in the university library. Supplemental materials could include the text of a bill, its voting history, committee analyses, press releases and related newspaper articles.

Other specialized videotapes will include how a bill becomes a law, tracing the route that legislation takes in the Assembly and Senate to eventually land on the governor’s desk for his signature into law or veto.


Still more tapes will feature the governor’s annual state-of-the-state speech in which he outlines what he wants from the Legislature, plus an average day in the life of a state lawmaker.

As for what kind of subjects might be covered on the videotapes, Tim Hodson, executive director of the university’s Center for California Studies, said issues such as AIDS education, guns on campuses, paddling as a punishment for graffiti crimes, and requiring school uniforms to be worn on campus might also be topics for videotapes.

Both public and private schoolteachers can then request tapes on a given subject for a nominal fee of about $10.

“The LegiSchool project is the result of a three-year effort to create a cost-effective, educator-oriented plan that would use Assembly television video to increase students’ knowledge of state government,” Hodson said.


The town hall meetings will be held monthly and broadcast live from the state Capitol with participating schools using telephone and television lines, enabling students to ask questions of both state legislators and officials.

The Legislature has held several interactive committee hearings this year, in which viewers of the California Channel throughout the state were able to communicate via an 800 number or by computer to ask questions and participate in discussions with lawmakers.

Brown first brought up the subject of a possible LegiSchool project with state university officials. CSUS was selected to participate because of its close proximity to the Capitol and its existing state government student-intern program.

Expected to begin in November, production costs will be paid by nonprofit foundation funds plus tape rental fees.


“This can be a real learning tool,” said Assemblyman Stan Statham (R-Oak Run), a former television anchorman and chairman of the Committee on Televising the Assembly. “To most students, a videotape is more interesting than a textbook. With this project, they’re going to get both.”