More than 20 State Boards of Education Designate a Role for Students in Policymaking Process
Alexandria, Va. – As students across the country seek to influence policy on school safety, bullying, and mental health, some state boards of education are engaging students directly and meaningfully by designating a student member seat on their board or creating student advisory councils. According to a new NASBE analysis, 20 states and territories have at least one student member on their state boards of education. Delaware and Mississippi are in the process of adding student members. At least seven states, like Utah, have set up student advisory councils.
“Involving Students in State Education Governance” outlines the advantages to having a student at the state board table, not the least of which is having direct input from the very people that education policies are meant to benefit, increasing stakeholder engagement, and developing civically engaged youth leaders.
Students serve on state boards of education in various ways. In six states, the governor appoints students as sitting members. The board selects a student member from a pool of candidates in eight states. In others, student councils elect student members. Students are voting members in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.
Whether or not a board has a student member, state boards should consider how they are involving young people in their work, and whose perspectives they are gathering. “Merely having young people present at meetings squanders the opportunities to have regular input from those who can translate the experience of being enrolled in today’s classrooms,” writes author Gary Colletti. The payoff for investing time and effort in a student member is greater the higher the level of student participation, the analysis suggests. Ensuring diversity in student representation is also critical. Student advisory councils fill this need by opening opportunities for multiple perspectives. Another way is adopting policies to ensure that the selection process for the student member is equitable.
“Student representatives serve a vital function on state boards,” says John-Paul Hayworth, executive director of the District of Columbia State Board of Education. “They ask insightful questions and can help a state board focus on the heart of the matter—students. Their voice is a powerful instrument, and we as adults should do all that we can to hold up a microphone for them.”
Read and share “Involving Students in State Education Governance.”
For 60 years, NASBE has served as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.