Giving Compass' Take:
- While there has been a push for students to serve on school boards, many student members do not receive voting power once appointed.
- Why is student representation important for educational equity? How can schools advocate for better student engagement on school boards?
- Read more about relevant education topics here.
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The push for students to serve on school boards is gaining traction nationally. Over the past five years, eight states have added at least one student member on their state board, created a student advisory council, or a combination of board membership and advisory council. Fourteen percent of the nation’s largest school districts now have a student serving on their boards. But the vast majority of these young people — 86% of student reps, according to a 2020 survey — do not have voting rights.
Students like Cayo said they must convince the adult panel members to vote for their causes, creating a system where differing generational perspectives can clash. Nationally, battles over school safety, critical race theory, and sex education have reached a fever pitch. In New York, debates about mental healthcare, metal detectors, and school admission policies are top of mind. Students say that their perspectives — as the group most directly affected by the education system — need to trigger real and concerted action.
“There is a disconnect between the people who are voting and the people who are actually stakeholders,” Cayo said. “It feels like you go and speak about the issues and just kind of cross your fingers that someone was actually kind of listening to you.”
Adult PEP members, like Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, the Manhattan borough president appointee, and Tom Sheppard, the vice chairman, agree that students should have voting rights on policy decisions. Salas-Ramirez said she had seen some of her fellow panelists dismiss the students’ proposals when it is clear what they are asking for impacts them.
“Some of my colleagues in that space are like, ‘Oh, they’re so cute’ and completely minimize their experiences and what they would like to see,” she said.
The Panel for Educational Policy was created by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002 after he gained control over the city’s schools from the State Legislature. Tasked with advising the city’s school chancellor on educational policy matters, the panel recently grew to 23 voting members: 13 appointed by the mayor, five appointed by the city’s borough presidents and five by the presidents of the city’s Community Education Councils (CECs). The state law expanding the panel included no additional student members.
Read the full article about student school board power by Julian Roberts-Grmela at Chalkbeat .