State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell answers questions during a Monday night forum at the Universalist-Unitarian Church, Haverhill.
About 40 people expressed interest Monday night in a bill to encourage public school students to better understand how government works and encourage greater voter turnout, among other aims.
State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, the House sponsor of the bill which is up for hearings today at the State House, outlined what her legislation would do and how it would benefit communities. The forum was organized by the League of Women Voters of Greater Haverhill and took place at the Universalist-Unitarian Church.
Campbell’s bill, sponsored in the state Senate by Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, would require students to undertake two “rigorous civics projects” as a graduation requirement, provide money for a Civics Projects Fund, establish the Edward M. Kennedy Civics Challenge to allow eighth graders to voluntarily take the citizenship test and create a high school voter challenge. The high school effort aims to have students help register and pre-register their peers to vote.
A fact sheet presented at the forum noted “fewer than one in five young people voted in the 2014 midterm election, and among youth who did not complete high school, just 8 percent voted.”
Among those speaking in favor of the legislation was Mayor James J. Fiorentini and City Councilor Andy Vargas.
If the legislation clears both houses of the state legislature and receives Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would draft regulations for school districts to follow. The education department would also identify outside institutions to help train teachers.