Among so many affected by the coronavirus in Idaho, K-12 students are greatly impacted because of school closures and the shift to remote learning. However, students do not currently have the opportunity to have input in state-level decisions that affect their education during this crisis, whether about grading policies or remote learning practices. Student voices would positively contribute to Idaho education policy—not just now, but always.
As a current high school junior, I want to propose that Idaho create, through an executive order by Gov. Brad Little, a K-12 Student Advisory Council to the State Board of Education. This council would be made up of high school students from around Idaho who would be able to make a major impact on our state by providing a student perspective on important decisions the board faces. This is a move that the majority of states have already made, including our neighboring states Utah and Washington.
Many in Idaho are already advising the State Board, such as a group of student body presidents from our public colleges. However, no current advisory groups involve K-12 students, even though Idaho has over 300,000 students in this category and high school students are very capable of analyzing the challenges and successes in their schools and contributing to policy discussions.
Establishing this council would provide a chance for a diverse group of students to influence our education system for the better and would give young people in our state the opportunity for civic involvement and leadership. High school students could offer the unique perspective that comes from seeing firsthand how policies affect ourselves and other students, and whether or not these policies are effective and realistic.
Other states often have some of the following rules in common regarding student advisory groups and student board members: student advisory councils do not have authority to vote on policies but can record an opinion to be included in the minutes for the meeting; they do not participate in executive sessions or personnel decisions; students serve for one to two years and are selected by application process; and, student members are usually juniors and seniors. Given the large size of Idaho, the council could meet monthly over video conference and have 1-2 meetings per year in person that could be led by a staff or board member of the state board.
In working to make a K-12 Student Advisory Council a reality, I have found Idaho’s leaders to be accessible and supportive. Mrs. Debbie Critchfield, President of the State Board of Education, was kind to meet with me and a group of my peers to hear about this idea this fall. Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin later generously scheduled a call with me to talk about moving this proposal forward and her staff connected me with a policy advisor in the governor’s office. Now, Gov. Little, this matter is in your hands. Please join our neighboring states and, through executive order, create a K-12 Student Advisory Council to give Idaho’s students the opportunity to contribute to the betterment of Idaho’s schools.
As one current student school board member in another state said, “School systems constantly tell students that you should care about your community and be well versed in topics and you should want to make a difference . . . I think that means I can take what I see in my own classroom and actually make a difference.” I hope students in Idaho will be offered the same opportunity to voice their ideas and help schools across our state prepare all of our students for success.