The following letter to the Dagger is from Annie Olesczcuk, a former president of the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils:
For 20 years the students of Harford County have been trying to gain voting rights for their representative on the Board of Education. The Student Representative on the Board (SROB) is elected by a delegation of students from every middle and high school in the county, except South Hampton. This delegation is known as the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils (HCRASC) and is the county’s student council as well as a major outlet for student activism.
HB 978, a bill that would give the SROB partial voting rights, is supported by the Harford County Delegation. The legislation would restrict the Student Member from voting on matters pertaining Operating and Capital Budgets, Acquisition and Condemnation of Property, School boundaries, School closings and re-openings, Employee personnel action, promotion, and appointment, Salary of Superintendent, Employment Appeals, Collective bargaining, Student Discipline Appeals, and Student Suspension and Expulsion.
The legislation proposes a new electoral process for the Student Member on the Board of Education. First the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils would narrow the eligible candidates to three finalists. From there, a district wide election for grades 6-11 would be held.
In the State of Maryland, five local school systems: Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Howard County, and Prince George’s County give their Board of Education’s student member partial voting rights. Anne Arundel County is the only school district in the state where the Student Member on the Board of Education has the same voting rights as the adult members. Harford County hopes to be the seventh school district to have a Student Member on the Board of Education with voting rights.
HB 978 is proposed with civic engagement, student contribution, and youth empowerment in mind. The legislation proposes a hands on experience for students to be involved in an election outside of their school and see an election that would have greater impact on them. To open up the newspaper and read about the candidate one voted for would contribute to students becoming more engaged in their civic responsibilities. HB 978 brings student empowerment back to the basics. When a student opens up their handbook, they can acknowledge that their Student Member on the Board of Education had a vote on it. It is nothing more than a student having a final say on the daily life of a student. A bill by the students and for the students.
As of now, HB 978 has gone through the Ways and Means committee and come out with a favorable report. The bill passed though the house on March 24, 2010. The Senate hearing is on April 7th. However, there is still little support coming from the Senate. There is no Senate twin of HB 978; therefore there is a need from the community to help this get passed. Please contact your Senators and Delegates to let them know of your support of this bill.
Annie Oleszczuk says
Update as of April 7, 2010:
Today Del. Dan Riley (sponosor of HB 978) and I testified before the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee in the Senate. Delegate Riley had stated all the responsiblities that and 17 or 18 year old is given in the United States and then concluded by saying that we should also be given the right to vote on the Harford County Board of Education. I then had state how this is a basic bill, when a student walks into school or opens a student handbook, those are the policies the Student Member would vote on. In addition I stated how this is literally a bill by the students and for the students. This bill passed through the house 140-0. As of now, since we just testified, we will now wait for the report to come out of committee, and hope it is favorable. It will then go onto the senate floor to be voted on. A bill granting the State Studnet member on the Board of Education just passed in the house and senate, so that is a favorable thing on our side. We hope once it hits the senate floor, the representatives will realize how much of a good thing this bill will be for Harford County. Please continue to call your local representative to voice your support of this bill! It is greatly appreciated! Thank you.
Cindy Mumby says
Partial voting rights for the student member of the school board will not become law this year, I’m sorry to report. The bill had unanimous support in the House, but didn’t have majority support from Harford’s senators, so the senate committee did not move the bill.