Let 'em vote

Harford County editorial

August 16, 2011|By EDITORIAL FROM THE AEGIS

It's time to re-think the knee-jerk reaction that a student representative on the Harford County Board of Education is too young or too immature to be entrusted with the responsibility of having a vote on school system policy or budget matters.

If we are going to have a student sitting on the board in the first place, why shouldn't they have a meaningful role in the governance of the school system, rather than being a piece of window dressing, casting show votes like something concocted right out of Soviet Russia?

Besides, there's a big difference between being one out of seven or nine or a dozen votes and being the lone decision-maker.

We suspect that one reason some people wouldn't want the school board's student representative to have a vote that counts concerns the potential for situations where that vote could be the deciding one when the board is otherwise evenly divided.

But that's not the same thing as having, for example, a student superintendent who is not only the deciding voice, but in many routine matters the only voice.

If the adult membership of the school board is evenly split on an issue, and the student member ends up casting the deciding vote, he or she will be in the company of adults who have either been elected by voters or picked by the governor. In our opinion, the student will have gotten there in the first place through a process that's just as legitimate.

The student school board representative is chosen by student council presidents at the county's high schools. It's a process that's at least as democratic as the Electoral College used to pick the nation's president.

This person is the voice of a 38,000-member student body. He or she has had first-hand experience with the school system from a customer's perspective. Why shouldn't they have an actual voice?

Frankly, we could do a lot worse than having the student rep cast the deciding vote in a school board matter, particularly when we are talking about a high school senior who, at the most, is a few months from being eligible to vote for president, county executive or state senator, serving in combat, holding down a job, leaving home for college or starting a family.

Those are votes and decisions with the potential to be at least as important as anything the Harford County Board of Education will decide in any given year.

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