March 18, 2015

Students Plan Monday Rally in Frankfort for House Bill 236

By Eliza Jane Schaeffer, Jamie Smith & Andrew Brennen

The Kentucky Senate left its audience hanging last Wednesday when it decided not to hear one bill that has been accruing local and national attention. House Bill 236 attempts to change a single line in the Kentucky Revised Statutes to allow districts to choose to give students a voice on superintendent screening committees.

The uncertain status of the bill leaves us deeply concerned. We are among dozens of other students from across the state who have spent hundreds of volunteer hours doing our homework to get HB 236 passed.

We researched the issue, studied the legislative process, met with legislators and advocates, prompted parents and friends to call their representatives, drafted legislation, wrote multiple opinion pieces, reached out to journalists, testified before the state legislature, and promoted our efforts on social media.

But despite our hard work, two Kentucky state senators added controversial amendments unrelated to our bill's basic premise, effectively killing our bill. The explanation was that they did this in an effort to salvage their own failed legislation, and it didn't matter what it did to ours.

While we are told that this type of action is common political practice, we want to hold our elected officials to a higher standard.

This Monday, we invite all students to ask permission to be excused from school and join us for a rally we are organizing at 10:30 a.m. on the Capitol steps in Frankfort.

The goal of "Stand With Students" is both to ensure that our bill is heard clean when the legislature reconvenes later that day and to make the case that a political system that allows such tactics as adding unrelated riders to bipartisan bills like ours that promote responsible civic engagement, is not OK.

Admittedly, we came into the 2015 session with an idealistic vision of how democracy works. But even though we are now we are a little more seasoned, we refuse to be cynical.

We have spent a lot of class time learning about the democratic process. We are now eager to do democracy, the way it was intended, and hope the General Assembly will not let us down.

The Student Voice Team was founded in 2012 at the Prichard Committee, a nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky for all ages. 

Since 2021 they have been the Kentucky Student Voice Team, an independent, statewide organization organization of young people who are co-creating more just, democratic Kentucky schools & communities as research, policy & advocacy partners.

This op-ed originally ran in the Courier Journal.

Andrew Brennen

Andrew Brennen

Andrew is a Senior Advisor and co-founder of KSVT. He is a former member and was previously the Student Director. Andrew graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 2014 and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2019. He is a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Eliza Jane Schaeffer

Eliza Jane Schaeffer

Eliza Jane is a Yoda Corps Advisor of KSVT and former member. She was previously the Chair of the School Governance Committee and founding Editor-In-Chief of the Student Voice Forum. Eliza Jane graduated from Henry Clay High School in 2016 and Dartmouth University in 2020.

Jamie Smith

Jamie Smith

Jamie is a Yoda Corps Advisor and co-founder of KSVT. She is a former member and was previously the Chair of the Postsecondary Committee. Jamie graduated from Henry Clay High School in 2016 and Brown University in 2020.