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.