Give student member of school board right to vote


POSTED: Thursday, February 25, 2010

As the non-voting student member of the state Board of Education, I frequently face the challenge of trying to convince my adult colleagues of how policies will and do affect students. Recent comments by state Rep. Lyla Berg on the validity of the youth voice deserve commendation. She stated that “;there are those of us who really believe our youth matter, and that they're smart enough to sit at the table with us.”;

I realized then that there is still hope for our cause.

Last week, the Hawaii State Student Council met and discussed its positions on education-related legislation and stated its continued support for Board of Education student member voting rights, an issue the students have been championing for more than 20 years now at the Legislature.

Our challenge has always been to prove to the legislators that, though we don't necessarily know more than adult board members, we definitely know different things—and some legislators, like Rep. Berg, have heeded our logic, as the board itself has.

The student member of the board, because he or she is also a regular public school student, understands thoroughly how policies affect individual students. The student board member provides the board with a critical worm's-eye view, which informs the board's aerial perspectives of the system.

I am not criticizing the board for its decisions, but acknowledging that different perspectives only further inform responsible decision-making.

We often hear our leaders say, “;Our keiki are the future,”; and while this is true, the fact should not preclude our leaders from remembering that our keiki are also a part of the present, or at least should be.

As the student member of the Board of Education, representing 178,000 public school students, I call on my legislators, whom I trust, to remember the value of our students' insights and to honor them by granting the student member of the Board of Education voting rights, a right long overdue.

Kelly Maeshiro of Pearl City is the student member on the state Board of Education.