ANNAPOLIS — Sen. Ron Young asked his Senate colleagues on Wednesday to support a bill to extend limited voting rights to the Frederick County Board of Education student member.
There were no witnesses during the three-minute bill hearing.
Young, D-District 3, is sponsoring the measure, which the county’s General Assembly delegation voted 5-3 this month not to support. Individual members of the delegation decided to file it instead.
With the Board of Education in long meetings on Tuesday, members who supported the bill and the current student board member couldn’t come to Annapolis to testify, Young said.
They provided written comments to the Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, which will decide whether to send the bill to the full chamber for a vote.
“I also have a unique problem that will come up on a couple more bills. ... We have a very partisan delegation,” Young told his fellow committee members. “... Our school board voted to ask for this. It was turned down 5-3 by the delegation. But [the board] asked me to still present the bill to this committee. So I’m here to do that.”
In the House of Delegates, delegates Carol Krimm and Karen Lewis Young, both D-District 3A, are sponsoring the bill.
Republicans in the delegation expressed a number of concerns about giving the student member elevated standing on the school board. They were particularly concerned that the student member would not be held accountable to voters in the community in the same way as elected members.
The Board of Education has eight members, including the one nonvoting student member. The student member must be a high school junior or senior chosen by other students in a countywide election. The member, who serves for one year beginning on July 1, advises the county board on the thoughts and feeling of students.
Last year, a majority of the Board of Education came to a consensus on a set of limited voting rights. Under the proposed bill, the student member could not vote on judicial or quasi-judicial matters, budget expenditures, school boundary changes, board officer elections, personnel matters, contracts, collective bargaining and the school calendar.
The bill states that the student member would not count toward a board quorum and the student member’s vote would be discarded if it resulted in a tie.
Brad Young, president of the Board of Education, sent a letter to the committee indicating the board’s support for the bill. Young has previously stated that he doesn’t support the bill himself. Debate over the measure led to a public family rift on Facebook after the delegation’s vote.
The board’s student member already participates in meetings and advocates for positions. The student's positions are part of the public record, Young wrote.
“However, the ability to cast a vote that will be counted toward a decision gives a greater meaning and weight to our Student Member’s positions,” Young wrote.
He also wrote that the restrictions would make the Frederick County bill the most restrictive set of student voting rights in the state and “provides protection to the student from having to take positions on what may be contentious or politicized issues.”
The current student board member, Carter Gipson, also submitted written testimony.
“Students have meaningful perspectives to bring to the table in determining the course of our school system, and it is long past time they should have been given the opportunity to do so,” Gipson wrote.
The bill faces an uphill climb in Annapolis, where committees typically don’t vote on locally focused bills without the support of a majority of lawmakers from that county.
“I know the general rules we follow, but I would love to see it passed,” Young said.