Should students—unelected by the citizens of Montgomery County—serve as full-voting members of the Montgomery County Board of Education?
Seems like an absurd question, but it almost happened.
The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved it. Current board of education members also supported it.
Thankfully, State Senator Brian Frosh blocked the measure.
For that, State Senator Frosh is taking political heat. The Montgomery County Board of Education vice president tweeted: “Wondering why Sen Frosh is so dead set against [student board member] voting rights?"
Other bloggers compared Senator Frosh’s position to support for a poll tax.
The political class is missing the boat.
Our schools face a budget crisis. Our county's annual budget runs more than $4 billion (running $100 millions in deficits) with slightly less than 50 percent going toward education. Of the roughly $2 billion, almost 84 percent is personnel costs and roughly half of that is for pension and benefits.
This is simply unsustainable.
If we want to keep our great schools and make them greater, we have to make some choices.
Rhode Island, a small state with fewer options, elected a forward-thinking state treasurer, who got a grand bargain to change benefit contribution amounts and raise the retirement age, to protect pensions and make new investment possible. California, which seems to believe it is too big to fail, drifts closer to the abyss.
Which way will we go?
Providing full voting power to the student representative on the board of education will do nothing to increase public confidence and support for the tough choices we have to make, including staff compensation and pension issues.
Without action, we will fail to ensure all have access to a quality public education in a safe and supportive environment.
Thank goodness State Senator Frosh acted. It is a pity he had to.
Morris Panner is running for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Board of Education.