At Burbank City Hall Wednesday night, aspiring legislators polled the public on potential bills to bring to Sacramento next year — but these policymakers had to finish their high-school homework first.
Student delegates from the Burbank YMCA's Youth & Government program held their Bill Hearing Night to get public input on potential legislative ideas to pick a bill that they will bring to the capital for the program's statewide conference in February.
The leading bill idea right now — which just barely failed in a 20-22 vote — is a take on school vouchers.
The 20 student delegates from Burbank will join 3,000 of their fellow students in Sacramento in February, where they will fully imitate the legislative process.
Casey Moore, 17, and a senior at Burbank High, said on Thursday that the bill would have the state issue $5,000 vouchers to students at the lowest-ranked schools in the state.
“[Students] could then take that money and choose, instead of having their school directly chosen for them,” he said. “It would create more competition between schools.”
Athaliah Sigamoney, a 16-year-old senior at Burbank High, said she had proposed another bill idea this year, to increase the amount of time necessary for teachers to receive tenure in an effort to improve teacher accountability.
“Students are more inclined to fix what we're used to,” she said. “School is something we've all experienced.”
Sigamoney said that joining the program after coming to Burbank from South Africa in early 2012 — and ultimately getting chosen for the statewide newscast team at last year's trip to Sacramento — gave her a glimpse at a possible future career.
“It was absolutely brilliant,” she said. “In South Africa, we don't have opportunities like this to experience what it's like to be in broadcast media.”
Of course, the program isn't only for aspiring broadcasters and legislators, said Anais Stepanian, 17, a senior at La Cañada high School. She joined the Burbank program when the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA delegation was too full.
Stepanian said that even though she wasn't a political junkie, the program has helped develop her public speaking skills and confidence.
“It's a great opportunity for anybody to step out of their shell,” she said. “We're not trying to manufacture mini-politicians. It's about having a voice and having a forum to have that voice and speak what you feel without being judged.”