Students Lobby To Go Back To School Early


Noah Gustafson, 6, joins his fellow Downtown School students as they lobby the state legislature to support education, including being able to start school early.

Think of it: schoolchildren marching on Capitol Hill to petition lawmakers for the right to go back to school early.

That was the scene Tuesday morning at the Iowa statehouse where an orderly but determined contingent from the Downtown School rallied in support of being able to start the school year early. Have legislators ever been lobbied with purer motive?

The timing of these students’ visit served two purposes. First, it dovetailed nicely with the culmination of their recent study of the legislative process. But maybe more to the immediate point, the students wanted to bring their influence to bear on legislation now pending in both houses of the general assembly that deals with school start dates.

While the group assembled in the rotunda some busied and dizzied themselves by gazing upward into the cupola. Others checked out the scale model of the USS Iowa, a WWII battleship. Then the group marched upstairs to ring the railing between the senate and house chambers where the work gets done.

Ten year-olds like Rachel Brauch, Clare Sweeney and Sophia Macro patiently explained to anyone who asked that their belief in the wisdom of year round education is based on their personal experiences at the Downtown School.

“I like having several smaller breaks instead of one really long one,” Sophia told an inquiring cameraman. “It makes no sense to spend the whole year learning and then forget everything over the summer.”

She’s got a point. But how do you make a state legislature that only convenes for a few months every year understand?

Molly Sweeney, Clare’s mom, teaches at the Downtown School. She’s a firm believer that education should be Iowa’s biggest business.

“If the argument for not starting school until Labor Day includes supporting tourism and economic development,” she said, “then we just have to make them see that educating these kids is more important.”

Some smaller citizens came equipped with placards custom-fitted to their wingspan. “Fund My Education,” read a kid-sized one. Another that pleaded “Keep My School Year Round” was signed “Love, Bella,” a nice touch you don’t often see when constituents express concerns to their elected representatives.

Absent any legislators to buttonhole just then, the Downtowners climbed one of the cramped spiral staircases from the 2nd floor to the gallery where they took seats and waited to be formally introduced when the House gaveled into session.

Down below them the legislators readied for the day’s agenda.

Nobody likes to work with bosses looming over their shoulder, but in the case of lawmaking maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

Downtown School Students Lobby the Legislature

Video of Downtown School at the Statehouse

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