March 11, 2015

Press Statement on House Bill 236 Lobbying Efforts

Yesterday, the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team received word that there were two amendments being added to HB236 that, for all practical purposes, would guarantee its defeat in the legislature. 


On the most absolute and unequivocal terms, we do not support these amendments.  HB 236 allows local school districts the option of adding a student member to their superintendent screening committees.  The two amendments by Senators Embry and Robinson have nothing to do with this issue. 

 

We have been working on this legislation tirelessly -- in between classes and homework -- for too many nights and weekends to count.  We did everything we had learned you are supposed to do to try to turn a bill into a law.  We have lobbied, testified, written many opinion pieces, met with fellow advocates, tweeted, posted and texted nonstop. We made our case and were told by both the House and Senate Education Committees that we had made it so well, our bill should be favorably passed to the chamber floors. 


So it was a shock to learn the other day that people whose own bills did not move forward on their own merits wanted to piggyback on the success of ours. Though we are told that is how the game of politics is played, we do not understand why we should be penalized for following the democratic process by those who want to subvert it.


This is not what we learned in civics class.


After receiving word of the unrelated riders that were attached to our bill, we immediately reached out to Senators Embry and Robinson to talk about it and their amendments. 


Our intent was to convince the lawmakers who we depend on in Frankfort, to hear our voices now as we attempt to make the case for why the Kentucky students should be valued and HB236 passed.  We wanted to urge the Senators to not politicize our otherwise  bipartisan, cost-free, opt-in legislation.  


This bill is about supporting students to be more civically-engaged in our schools!  How could anyone oppose that?


But both Senators told us outright that their legislation is more important than our legislation.


More confusing still, is that both Senators Embry and Robinson stated that they support the concept of HB 236. But they also stated publicly that they are playing politics with our bill to force the House leadership to hear their more controversial amendments which weren’t heard in House committees on their own merits.

 

We are disheartened by the fact that our elected officials would use our bill to further a political agenda.  We do not understand why legislators would take our hard work and try to claim it as their own. 


We now ask both Senator Embry and Robinson to rescind their amendments so House Bill 236 can be passed and the Commonwealth can prove to our nation that the political process can work and that student voice matters. 


Please, save our bill.

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.

This press statement was delivered at a press conference by Nicole Fielder and Gentry Fitch in the Kentucky State Capitol on March 11, 2015. Both are seniors at West Jessamine High School in Nicholasville.

This press statement was delivered at a press conference by Nicole Fielder and Gentry Fitch in the Kentucky State Capitol on March 11, 2015. Both are seniors at West Jessamine High School in Nicholasville.