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Local government education program becomes nation's model       Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 18, 2004]  URBANA -- A University of Illinois Extension program that helps high school students learn and understand more about local government has been selected for presentation at a national convention for community development professionals next year. "Tomorrow's Leaders: Understanding Illinois Local Government" was developed by U of I Extension, the Illinois Municipal League, Township Officials of Illinois, and the Illinois Association of County Board Members and Commissioners. These groups comprise the Partnership for Local Government Education.

"Members and staff of these local government associations felt there was a need for a program to develop citizens who care about and contribute to local communities," explained Jeri Marxman, Extension public affairs and public policy specialist. "Today, more than 100 teachers throughout Illinois are using the curriculum in their classrooms."

Organizers of the February 2005 convention of the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals requested a presentation on the program from the Partnership for Local Government Education.

"While there are similar programs in other states, the Illinois program is considered a model for successful collaboration of Extension with local government associations," Marxman said.

Teachers using the curriculum in Illinois classrooms have responded favorably in evaluations of the program. One teacher wrote, "In eighth grade, I have three weeks to teach the Illinois Constitution, review, test and give the students who failed an opportunity to retake the test. Unfortunately, that allots little time for studying local government. Out of the 15 days, this class spent three days studying local government. It was time well-spent and the part which seemed to interest the students most."

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Some teachers have sent students to attend meetings of local government units and hand in reports. Other teachers invited local officials into the classroom and reported that the officials' presence was helpful in increasing the students' understanding of local government.

The curriculum consists of eight units covering topics such as local government finances, the police and court systems, safety, local government services, and how citizens can affect the governance of cities, villages, townships, counties and various special districts.

Those interested in obtaining the curriculum for their school should contact Ruby Lingle, U of I Extension, (217) 782-6515; Gary Koch of the Illinois Municipal League, (217) 525-1220; Bryan Smith, Township Officials of Illinois, (217) 744-2212; or Kelly Murray, Illinois Association of County Board Members and Commissioners, (217) 528-5331.

[University of Illinois news release]

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