The following update on the passage of the voting rights bill for the student member of the Harford County Board of Education was provided by Christina McIntyre, Chair of the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils Student Voting Rights Task Force:
The Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils is pleased to announce that the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates have passed legislation to grant the student member on the Harford County Board of Education partial voting rights. Senate Bill 816 (Harford County Board of Education- Student Member- Voting Rights), sponsored by all three Harford County senators (Senators Glassman, Jacobs, and Jennings), received a unanimous favorable report from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and unanimously passed in the Maryland Senate. House Bill 213, the cross-file legislation of Senate Bill 816, sponsored by all eight Harford County delegates (Delegates McComas, Impallaria, McDonough, James, Norman, Stifler, Szeliga, and Glass), received a unanimous favorable report from the House Ways and Means Committee and unanimously passed in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Senate Bill 816 and House Bill 1213 grant the student member on the Harford County Board of Education the same rights and privileges as an appointed or elected member, with the exception of voting on certain matters and attending executive sessions of the Board of Education addressing these certain matters (geographical attendance, acquisition and disposition of real property and matters pertaining to school construction, employment of architects, donations, condemnation, consolidation of schools and transportation of students, appointment and salary of a county superintendent, employee discipline and other related appeals, budgetary matters, appointment and promotion of staff, collective bargaining for certificated and noncertificated employees, student suspension and expulsion, and school calendar and curriculum). The legislation was amended to exclude the student member from receiving the stipend for travel and expenses to which each elected or appointed board member is entitled.
Students Anthony Cofrancesco (Student Member on the Harford County Board of Education) and Christina McIntyre (Chair of the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils Student Voting Rights Task Force) presented this legislation to the Harford County Council and obtained unanimous Council support. Chad Shrodes (Council Member for District D) stated that, “This is a very important and historic moment for the students of Harford County.” Council President Billy Boniface provided testimony on behalf of the Harford County Council on the Senate and House bills for their respective hearings. These students also met with County Executive David Craig and obtained his support for this legislation. Mr. Craig also provided testimony on the legislation. The Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils is very appreciative of the extensive support of Harford County’s government leaders. After hearing the listing of the Harford County community and government leaders supporting this legislation, Delegate Sheila Hixson (D- District 20, Montgomery County), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, remarked, “That’s great unity! We don’t see that very often.”
The hearing for Senate Bill 816, held in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, resulted in a unanimous favorable report. Many students from the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils attended the hearing and expressed student support for this legislation. Senator Barry Glassman introduced the bill to the committee and expressed the support of the Harford County senators. Mr. Ben Lloyd, representing the Harford County Executive, testified on behalf of Harford County government, asserting that “allowing not only a voice but a vote will encourage more student engagement and foster more understanding of the decision-making process in the next generation of leaders”. Ms. Alysson Krchnavy, Harford County Board of Education member, testified on behalf of Harford County Public Schools, saying that “the Harford County Board of Education highly, highly recommends the opportunity to encourage student engagement in policy creation for the school board”. Students Anthony Cofrancesco, Christina McIntyre, and Adam Hiob (President of the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils) testified on behalf of the students of Harford County Public Schools. Senator Joanne Benson (D- District 24, Prince George’s County) expressed her support, saying “If more people listened to young folks… a lot of times we make decisions and we never ask you and that’s why our school systems are in trouble. They don’t seek your input. And that’s why I’m so pleased that you all in Harford County have the good sense to involve these youngsters more in the decision-making process because if you really want to know how it should be done, you need to ask our youngsters.”
The hearing for House Bill 1213, held in the House Ways and Means Committee, also resulted in a unanimous favorable report. Delegate Susan McComas introduced the bill to the committee and expressed the support of the Harford County Delegation. Students Christina McIntyre and Adam Hiob testified on behalf of the students of Harford County Public Schools. Ms. Mary Ann Lisanti, Harford County Council member for District F, testified on behalf of Harford County government. Ms. Lisanti served as president of the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils when she was in high school and has been very supportive of this legislation. Ms. Kathy Carmello, Facilitator of Governmental Relations for Harford County Public Schools, testified on behalf of the Harford County Board of Education. The students who have worked on this legislation are very thankful for the guidance and support of Ms. Carmello.
Enacting this legislation will apply student representation to the policies and decisions made by the Harford County Board of Education but limit this application of student representation to content appropriate for the student vote. The students of the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils feel that factoring the student voice into board policies and decisions through the applied student representation provided by a partial student vote expresses the value that Harford County Public Schools places upon the interest and needs of the students they serve. A partial student vote advances the Board of Education from considering the student voice to implementing the student voice, advancing the capability of the Board to make decisions and create policies that correspond to student interests and needs. Applied student representation through the partial voting rights of the student member empowers students to actively engage their education. Senate Bill 816 and House Bill 1213 will enable the Harford County Board of Education to better serve the students of Harford County Public Schools.
The next step for this legislation before it is signed by Governor O’Malley is for the Senate to pass Senate Bill 816’s cross-file, House Bill 1213, and for the House of Delegates to pass House Bill 1213’s cross-file, Senate Bill 816. The students of the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils are thrilled our local and state government leaders have come together to recognize and support the value of the student voice.