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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Senate Delegation, Gridlock Disenfranchises Students

House bill on student voting rights in limbo
by Marcus Moore and Sean R. Sedam | Staff Writers
A bill to expand the responsibilities of Montgomery County's student school board member is unlikely to pass this year's legislative session, because the county's Annapolis delegation can't agree on which issues the students should be allowed to vote.
The House of Delegates has passed a version of the bill, but it won't become law until the full Senate agrees to the legislation.
There are several reasons why the county's student school board members should not have expanded voting rights, said Sen. Rona E. Kramer (D-Dist. 14) of Olney.
Students rely on their teachers for grades, she said, so if student board members voted against a matter that affected teachers, their grades could be affected.
Another pressure could come from parents, Kramer said. If the student school board member goes to a friend's house, the parents could lean on the student to vote in favor of proposals that could help their neighborhood, she said.
"That's a lot of pressure on a student," Kramer said. "I think we've completely lost sight of common sense. These students are elected by 12-year-olds. We're going to allow a person not elected by the taxpayers to vote on a $2 billion budget?"
Hey guys,

Despite our best efforts, it looks like the bill will not pass this year. Here is a bill report showing where our Senators stood on the issue.

To address the points made by Sen. Kramer in the article, I have several questions:
  1. Should we not allow parents with children in the school system to vote on policies and regulations? Wouldn't their children's grades be affected?
  2. Should current school board members not be allowed to go to their neighbor's homes? After all, their peers could "lean on" them to vote in favor of proposals that could help their neighborhood.
  3. Should steps be taken to eliminate pressure at all levels of government? Isn't the idea of "pressure" a fundamental part of our pluralistic democracy?
  4. Do you know that the Student Member position is not elected in a Direct election by 12-year olds?
  5. Does the Board of Education appropriate $2 Billion? Or under state law, is it a recommendation to the county council? So who REALLY deals with "taxpayer money"?
  6. Shouldn't all students be exempt from paying sales and other forms of income taxes in the State of Maryland since "students are not taxpayers"?
  7. Since several senators seem to disrespect the student voice so much, should there even be a Student Member position?
Truly it is a sad day in Montgomery County, one of the most progressive districts in America, when our own legislators can not agree on whether or not students should be represented in the decision making process. This is an issue that we, as students, have been fighting for for the past 3 decades. Even after 30 years of movements, activism, and involvement, our legislators have yet to recognize the impact that students can have in their own school system. Going against those who are on the ground level every day in the school system, the Board of Education, the Teacher's Union (MCEA), the County-wide student government associations, the County Council, and the County Executive, the Senate Delegation instead chose to disenfranchise students from the process.

As we go forward, I am reminded of a quote from our current president: "In the face of a politics that's shut you out, that's told you to settle, that's divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what's possible, building that more perfect union. [...] Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what's needed to be done. Today we are called once more -- and it is time for our generation to answer that call. For that is our unyielding faith -- that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it."

Thank you to all the Delegates, Senators, community activists, and leaders who let us come this far. We can only hope that in future years, student and community leaders will be able to once again come together to bring up the issue and be victorious in this constant struggle to be truly represented.

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