Wed. Dec 6th, 2023
    Why Student Voices are Crucial in Arizona School Boards

    In Arizona, when you attend a school board meeting during the public comment period, you might notice a surprising absence of student speakers. Instead, the podium is often dominated by adults discussing various issues. While it’s not uncommon to see students receive awards or robotics team members fundraising, their voices are seldom heard on pertinent matters. This lack of direct student representation deprives school board members of a crucial perspective.

    School board members in Arizona attempt to engage with student stakeholders through school visits. However, these visits primarily focus on touring the school and engaging with adult administrators and teachers. While it’s important for board members to interact with these individuals, it’s equally crucial for them to connect with the students directly.

    Statistics and inference may provide useful insights, but they can never replace the invaluable firsthand perspectives that students bring to the table. The high school generation possesses a breadth of experiences and concerns that would greatly benefit school boards in decision-making processes.

    Fortunately, many states have already recognized the significance of student voices and have created student member positions on local boards. According to the California School Board Association, 35 states have implemented these positions. In California, student members have a “preferential” vote, which doesn’t directly impact the board’s final decision but serves as a valuable guide for adult members.

    By having student members on school boards, decision-makers gain access to vital insights that inform policies better suited to address the needs of students. In Maryland, student board members have expanded access to essential items like menstrual hygiene products, while in San Diego, they have established mental health supports for their peers. These students are leaders in building better education systems.

    While Arizona already acknowledges the importance of student voices through various advisory committees, the potential for student board members remains untapped. Despite the availability of this option, no Arizona school board has implemented it yet. It’s essential to question why our school boards do not provide students with a voice in policymaking that directly impacts their lives.

    Integrating student members into school boards is a win-win situation. Students gain valuable representation and an opportunity to shape their education, while school boards benefit from diverse perspectives and better understand the needs of their student population. The time has come for Arizona school boards to proactively include student members, allowing for more inclusive and effective policymaking.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    1. What is the purpose of student members on school boards?

    Student members on school boards provide crucial insights and perspectives that help inform policies and decisions that directly affect students’ lives. They serve as advocates for their peers and contribute to building better education systems.

    2. Do student board members have voting rights?

    In some states, student board members have a “preferential” vote, which means their vote does not directly impact the final decision of the board. However, adult members can use student votes as guidance in their own decision-making process.

    3. How do student members benefit school boards?

    Student members provide valuable insights and firsthand experiences that can help school boards pass policies that better address the needs of students. They bring a unique perspective and contribute to more inclusive and effective policymaking.

    4. Why haven’t Arizona school boards implemented student members yet?

    Despite the availability of the option to include student members on school boards in Arizona, no board has put it into practice. The reasons behind this decision warrant further investigation and consideration.

    5. What are the potential benefits of adding student members to Arizona school boards?

    Integrating student members into Arizona school boards would provide students with direct representation in policymaking processes. It would allow decision-makers to gain diverse perspectives, better understand student needs, and create more inclusive and effective policies for education.