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Posted on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor Skyline students' idea for license plate to support arts becomes bill in Michigan House

By Danielle Arndt


Ann Arbor juniors Stina Perkins, left, and Hannah Clague stand in their magnet classroom at Skyline High School Monday morning. The girls had a research paper they wrote last year inspire a new bill to save arts education funding that was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives earlier this month.

Melanie Maxwell |

Three Ann Arbor students have inspired a piece of legislation that, if signed into law, would establish a new means of generating revenue for arts education in Michigan.

Rep. Douglas Geiss, a Democrat from Taylor, introduced a bill on March 12 in the Michigan House of Representatives that would create a fundraising license plate to support the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

The legislation was the work of Skyline High School's now-juniors Hannah Clague and Stina Perkins, as well as former Skyline student and current Rudolf Steiner junior Sophie Kendall. While the three girls did not write the actual bill that was proposed, it was inspired by a paper they crafted last year as part of Skyline's Communication, Media and Public Policy magnet.

Lead teacher Pat Jenkins said during the students' first class as sophomores in the magnet, Introduction to Public Policy, the kids are required to brainstorm a policy issue they would like to know more about. Then they complete a policy analysis and research solutions and resolutions that are employed in other places, she said.

For the three girls, arts fundraising was a no brainer.

They have watched as programs in the arts — dance, choir, theater, band and orchestra — continuously were placed on the chopping block not only in districts across Michigan, but in their own district, as schools face budget cuts, declining enrollment and decreased funding from the state.

"I have played classical guitar since I was 4 and it's something that has lead me to excel throughout my school career and has been really influential in what I achieve as a student today," said Perkins of her passion for arts education. "There's tons of research about how participating in (the arts) spurs cognitive develop from a young age."

Aside from playing guitar, Perkins also is a writer. Clague is an aspiring singer and dancer, and Kendall draws and paints.

Clague's father, Mark, is a music professor at the University of Michigan and it was his connection to a former student, Timothy Michling, who works in Geiss' office, that led to the Ann Arbor students presenting their proposal for the license plate to the legislator.

Michling is the primary oboist for the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra and Geiss is a huge supporter of the arts and music education as his wife plays the violin, said Michling. He said Mark Clague mentioned the girls' proposal to him and he mentioned it to Geiss.

"From Detroit to the Upper Peninsula, Michigan is home to some of the world's greatest institutions of music, art, history and culture," Geiss said. "While difficult economic circumstances have required that equally difficult funding decisions be made at the state level, it is truly unfortunate that Michigan — historically known for its creative edge — has become so disinvested in its artistic and cultural heritage."

He said the license plate would give people a visible symbol for their support of the arts, while guaranteeing access to arts and cultural programming to communities throughout Michigan.

House Bill 4407 has bipartisan support and was co-sponsored by four Democrats, including Rep. Jeff Irwin from Ann Arbor, and three Republicans.

Perkins said the girls based their proposal on a similar bill in the state of California, which they discovered in their research also has experienced significant cuts to K-12 arts programs. Michling added there also are arts license plates in Nevada, Texas, Tennessee, Indiana and North and South Carolina.

Perkins said the California license plate fundraiser was wildly successful and the money from the plates generated nearly 60 percent of the state's arts education budget.

If House Bill 4407 passes, the idea would be to launch a "huge crusade" to save arts education in Michigan and to advertise the effort on a broad scale, Perkins said. She added the California bill was promoted and backed by numerous celebrities, including the cast of "Glee."

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will take up the bill, the Secretary of State's Office would issue the license plates and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs would funnel the money through grants to local school districts.

According to the State Department's website, it currently offers fundraising license plates for Michigan's 15 public universities, as well as nine special causes, including: the Boy Scouts of America, Children's Trust Fund, lighthouse preservation, veterans memorial, water quality and disaster relief through the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army. Purchasing a special fundraising plate costs an extra $10.

Perkins said she never imagined her and her classmates' proposal would go so far.

"There are lots of causes competing out there, but I think there is interest in this one," she said, adding the process has taught her a lot about the State Legislature, public policy and the power of a small grassroots group of people.

"It was definitely encouraging. … We learned in our government class … that the most influential thing to a person sitting in public office is the heartfelt letters from their communities. And we got to see firsthand how that works."


Pat Jenkins


Jenkins is incredibly proud of her students, she said. She and the students will continue to follow the bill through the Legislature. The girls would like to conduct a contest locally among community artists for the license plate design, if the bill is signed into law.

"I am thrilled," Jenkins said of Clague, Kendall and Perkins' paper becoming the inspiration for this bill. "High school students today, I don't think the public is aware of how awesome they are. If you give them the tools and have high expectations, they really do soar."

She said in her Skyline magnet program, she teaches, but she also does a great deal of facilitating.

"It's real world here and if you want to change the world, you can. And that's so true in terms of the impact these girls are having."

Clague and Perkins encouraged community members to get involved in helping this bill pass and to write their legislators and the governor to share their opinions on the bill.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 11:09 p.m.

Kudos to Stina, Hannah and Sophie! Pat Jenkins is a fabulous teacher! Go CMPP!

Lisa D

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

Thanks to these bright, hardworking and creative students and thanks to Skyline teacher, Pat Jenkins and the students' parents and community members who mentored them throughout this exciting project! Lisa Dengiz


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 9:09 p.m.

Kudos all around, including Pat Jenkins!


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 9:07 p.m.

Maybe they should run for an office in A2, seems they can contribute more than what we have in place.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

Outstanding job by these young ladies. It occurs to me that they have more creativity and seeds than a great number of our state legislators. This is the kind of solution that somehow eludes the folks getting big bucks to think there way to proper governing. The best part is they got both Dems and Reps to sponsor it so it isn't a partisan issue. Sign me up for one of your plates.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

As a parent of a student in this CMPP magnet program at Skyline, I am very happy to see this positive article. Skyline gets no shortage of negative comments in these forums but there is excellent work going on at that school. Pat Jenkins is truly a gifted teacher who is inspiring and motivating her students. My son is excited and passionate about what he is learning in her classes and is thinking about college and career options as a result.

Christine Stead

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

I am thrilled to see this story covered. This is a great example of the value that the innovative programs offer in the AAPS. Pat Jenkins is doing a wonderful job in the CMPP magnet. It's been a privilege to get to see more of the impact of the magnet programs at Skyline. This is exactly the kind of innovation in education that is so important to preserve and grow. I'm looking forward to seeing more good work from these young ladies, and many more of our students. I am also looking forward to seeing more coverage of the contributions that our students and teachers make on major levels across all subject areas throughout the year. Many, like these students, are having a state and national impact.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

yay CMPP!


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

Great idea! I will buy one, and I never pay for fancy plates!


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

So...where is the picture of this great plate? Is this going to be one of those signature plates? Or something you buy once and you don't have to pay to renew? We need three new plates and would if we don't have to pay for it every year. Great ideas though.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

I am a student in CMPP, and I am so proud of my classmates. Please voice your support by filling out this form,4668,7-277-57827-267869--,00.html online, or writing personal letters to your representatives. Thank you so much, have a great day!

Mark Clague

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

Thanks to Danielle Arndt for her encouragement and support of Hannah, Stina and Sophie. They need Michiganders from across the state to write their representatives and Governor Snyder to say they support the idea and will purchase a plate. See for more info.

Danielle Arndt

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

Hi Mark, thank you so much for jumping in here and for sharing the link to your blog. It was a pleasure speaking with your daughter and her friends! I also went back and added a link in the story for people to write to their legislators and Gov. Snyder.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.



Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Great job, ladies! Get it out there and it will be on my car!


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

D'you ever notice the first things the School Boards want to cut is art and sports? I think there is a mindset that tells Board of Ed members that art and sports are not that important. It seems that thinking is in direct conflict with reality, as they expect kids to be interested in learning without the release they get through their arts, music and sports. I don't know how much money this program would make for local school districts and their programs, however, something is more than nothing...... Hats off to the kids for thinking of this. Now we should get the Board members to step up and fund the programs through the budget process, so peddling license plates is not necessary to fund local art, music and sports......


Wed, Mar 27, 2013 : 2:42 a.m.

The city of Ann Arbor could use some its Arts budget, too, to help support arts in the schools.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

Do prisoners still make license plates?


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:02 p.m.

I am impressed. Way to go girls--- we would buy one!

Tom Todd

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Excellent Job! Why does it cost an arm and a leg to plate a vehicle every year?


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

You pay for the plate and tab every year to support this. Unless this is a one time deal on the plate and all you do is renew the tab. Can't afford both here. But would if it is a one time deal.

Great Lakes Lady

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.



Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

We have to pay for the help Tom......


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

Wow!!! You ladies are an inspiration! Thank you for your work on this, I think it's one of the best ideas I've heard in ages.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

Great!! I'll buy one!


Wed, Mar 27, 2013 : 1:51 a.m.

I'll buy one too!


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 10:49 a.m.

Authentic assessment at it's best!!!!!