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Rainbow sixth-graders become legislators during government shutdown

MADISON – With the impasse in the U.S. Congress, about 120 Rainbow Elementary School sixth-graders exemplified how the legislature should be working.

Rainbow 'Senator' Michael Guthrie argued against the 'Tim Tebow Bill' on the 'Senate' floor. (CONTRIBUTED)
Rainbow ‘Senator’ Michael Guthrie argued against the ‘Tim Tebow Bill’ on the ‘Senate’ floor. (CONTRIBUTED)

Their study about federal legislation was part of Rainbow’s monthly enrichment program, funded by the Rainbow PTA. The enrichment team composed of substitute teachers and parent volunteers coordinate activities while teachers pursue professional development, Emily Peck said.

Sixth-graders assumed roles of U.S. senators. Each student group learned about the process of implementing a bill into law and subsequent debate about a bill, parent volunteer Ranae Bartlett said.

The enrichment team divided students into the “Boy” and “Girl” political parties. Mirroring the committee process, each party heard pro and con arguments from interest-group representatives about the bill.

The ‘legislators’ debated the ‘Tim Tebow Bill,’ which would allow home-school students to play football in public schools. Students could identify with a bill related to school because “it’s a current issue. A similar bill was introduced in the last state legislative session,” Peck said.

Students considered how potential middle-school football players would react to losing positions to home-school students. “Parents of home-school students do pay taxes. Is it fair they pay taxes for schools but (can’t) participate?” Peck said.

Madison Board of Education member Connie Spears, standing, lobbies for a point on the Rainbow 'Senate' floor. (CONTRIBUTED)
Madison Board of Education member Connie Spears, standing, lobbies for a point on the Rainbow ‘Senate’ floor. (CONTRIBUTED)

For floor debate, the team appointed a majority/minority leader and whips. ‘Senators’ couldn’t rally enough votes to end a filibuster.

“Our bill died today on the Senate floor. There was an attempt to amend the bill, which didn’t pass,” Peck said.

“Our amendment will open the door to all extracurricular public school activities. If the students change their minds about the bill, home-school students (could) participate in all sports, cheerleading, band, choir or theater,” Peck said.

Students learned about vetoing a bill, along with the votes required for an override.

The enrichment team didn’t mind the hubbub from the Boys and Girls parties. “There’s chaos in Congress. It takes lots of negotiations and legwork to pass a bill,” Peck said. “In fact, sometimes the mark of a good session is how many bills are killed rather than passed.”

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