With just days until voters flood the polls to elect the next president, students at Free State High School are in the midst of their own presidential race, complete with attack ads, propaganda and, on Friday, a moderated debate.
Seniors Hannah Kapp-Klote and Kenny Myers are running in the school's mock presidential election, where Kapp-Klote earned that State Party's nomination and Myers is the Free Party's candidate. This is the third year of advanced-placement politics students participating in the mock race.
Kapp-Klote and Myers faced off against each other as politics teacher Bobby Nichols moderated the debate, which hinged on the election's three key issues: health care, the environment and Social Security.
"We did a lot of research. We had a lot of people working really hard on these topics," Kapp-Klote said.
On health care, Myers proposed a hybrid plan to offer free services to children, and limited services to older citizens. Kapp-Klote suggested a plan that provided free health care for long-term illnesses.
She proposed a one-half of 1 percent estate tax on estates worth $3.5 million or more to prop up Social Security, which she said would result in a 26 percent profit to "reinvigorate" the service. Myers' plan would provide each American with his or her own account, from which earnings would be placed alongside a government fund. Over the years, both those funds would presumably grow, eliminating the need to rely on troubled Social Security funds.
Both candidates had an aggressive environmental policy. Myers' would involve the United States recognizing the Kyoto Protocol, and reward green energy companies with tax cuts. Kapp-Klote suggested a green public works initiative to create jobs, infuse the economy and make the U.S. a leader in sustainability.
Myers said the weeks leading to the debate made him realize he needed to provide specific details.
"We were going for a more general approach," he said. "Being in high school, I was expecting (other students) not to care."
But while delivering stump speeches to other government classes, he found students were yearning for specifics.
"It's given me a huge new outlook on how politicians learn to talk with people," he said.
Kapp-Klote said providing a detailed policy map was something candidates in the national spotlight fail to do.
It hurts the electorate, "because no one says 'this is important' and why it's important," she said.
Nichols was impressed with the debate, which was the students' last chance to hear the candidates before Tuesday's vote.
"It shows the complexities of all the issues out there," he said.
And when it comes to being an informed voter, Nichols said the election simulation shows students how much thought and energy goes into forming policies.
"You hope they open their eyes a little bit to understand the complexities of it," he said.