Maximizing “Student Voice”

“STUDENTS ARE THE MOST VALUABLE AND LEAST CONSULTED EDUCATION-POLICY EXPERTS  IN AMERICA.”  ~AMANDA RIPLEY,  AUTHOR OF “THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD”

Too often the mantra ‘Student Voice’ falls on deaf ears. Certainly, the views by some students do get heard. Student representatives–elected by their high school peers–who serve on their School Boards tend to earn respect from their adult counterparts. A genuine collegiality can thrive. If student reps make waves, their influence on the Board can take a dive.

Only a few school boards in the country give student reps voting power. This advisory role further undermines real clout. Another criticism is the burden on one or two full-time high school students to represent the entire student population.

Is there a way to democratize the decision-making process that spans from school budgets, testing to discipline and other rules? Imagine if the primary stakeholders had the opportunity to weigh in on the critical decisions that affect them five days a week.

Surprise! Some school board members believe that students should join adults (many of whom went to school decades ago) in electing school board candidates rather than only their student rep. The San Francisco Board of Education voted unanimously in favor of extending voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds. This ballot measure, which included lowering the voting age for Mayor and the County Board of Supervisors, lost but not by a large margin. In neighboring Berkeley, the School Board members shared the same belief that education policy making would be better informed with this expanded constituency. A whopping 70% of adult voters agreed and in the next election, all students age 16 and up will have this opportunity.

Here are a few links for more information about this controversial proposal.

Do you think ‘Student Voice’ will have real meaning and influence if students also can vote? Yea or Nay?

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