March 23, 2015

More Than Three Hundred Students Rally for House Bill 236

FRANKFORT  — Monday morning more than three hundred students rallied to show their support for student voice and House Bill 236. The bill, drafted by the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team and sponsored by Representative Derrick Graham (D-Frankfort), amends KRS 160.352 to add an optional, peer-elected high school student to superintendent screening committees.

The students gathered on the Capitol steps to listen to speakers, including Graham, Senator Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), Executive Assistant to the Governor Colmon Eldridge, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, and Franklin Independent Schools Superintendent Rich Crowe.

Ashton Bishop, an 8th grader from Greene County Middle School said in a speech at the rally “As students, we know firsthand how so many of the decisions made at an administrative level affect us.  We are on the front lines and in the classroom almost every day”

Jamie Smith, a Junior at Henry Clay High School said “We care enough to miss a day of our education in the hopes we will improve it in the long run.”  she continued explaining “ We care because we know that student voice is the only way our learning will be as effective as it can possibly be.”

In November, students from the Student Voice Team asked the Fayette County School Board to include a student on the superintendent screening committee. The Board informed the students that a student representative could not be included because of state law and a strict interpretation of it by the Attorney General’s office. The law currently limits the committee to two teachers, one principal, one classified employee, one parent, one board member, and, in some cases, one minority member.

Three weeks ago, the students testified in front of the House Education Committee. The bill was unanimously recommended favorably to the floor. Later that week the House passed HB 236 with a vote of 88 to five. The students testified in front of the Senate Education Committee two weeks ago. The bill was recommended favorably and only two friendly amendments were proposed. Later that evening, however, the Student Voice Team learned that two additional floor amendments had been filed. The amendments were considered unfriendly because they added two bills that would not be heard by the House. 

The bill was not heard on the last day before the recess by the Senate after the students applied pressure through social media to have two controversial amendments removed. Over the past week and a half, the Student Voice Team has been organizing the rally and got over 1100 signatures on a petition which they delivered Monday morning. A few students from the group were invited to met with Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) and other members of Senate Leadership on Friday to discuss action on the bill

The Kentucky Association of School Councils, Center for Teaching Quality, Hope Street Group, Kentucky Center for Education Policy, Soundout, Inspire Kentucky and Student Voice are among local and national advocacy groups that have formally endorsed the Student Voice Team’s efforts.

The Kentucky Student Voice Team is an independent, youth-led, statewide organization that supports students as research, policy, and advocacy partners to ensure Kentucky’s education system is as equitable, just, and as excellent as it can be. Until 2021, it was part of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky—early childhood through postsecondary.