Bipartisan Legislators Seek School Accountability

Three measures under consideration would enable students to hold their schools accountable.

Media Contact: Rachel Belin, Managing Partner, rachel@ksvt.org, (859) 396-6362‬

Frankfort, KY— Among the measures legislators will consider this week are three that would enable Kentucky students to hold their schools accountable. House Bills 161 and 136 and Senate Bill 22 build on the bipartisan progress Kentucky has already made to ensure students have a seat at the education policy decision-making table. 

“The Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT) is pleased that legislators from both political parties appreciate the value student voice can bring to the education policy making process,” said Cadence Brown, KSVT Director and Marshall County High School senior. “We applaud and support the range of proposals under consideration.”

Each bill would advance student representation in unique ways:

  • House Bill 161 introduced by Representatives Lisa Willner (D) and Killian Timoney (R)  would add non-voting student members to every district school board in the state
  • House Bill 136 introduced by Representative William Lawrence (R) would add additional voting student members to higher education boards of trustees in Kentucky
  • Senate Bill 22 introduced by Senator Reggie Thomas (D) would give voting rights to the student member on the Kentucky Board of Education

“Students can bring a unique and vital perspective on what's working and what’s not working in our schools. From my role on the state board of education, I’ve seen firsthand how students can notice problems and propose solutions that adults can sometimes miss,” said Joud Dahleh, Kentucky Board of Education representative and a junior at the Ignite Institute in Boone County.

Students presenting public comment to a Kentucky school board

Kentucky students currently serve on the boards of education in 15 of Kentucky’s 189 districts. However, nearly half of the districts surveyed in a 2016 study conducted by the Kentucky Student Voice Team indicated some level of support for adding student members to their board. Since that study was released, Kentucky has made meaningful progress in enhancing student representation in school governance. 

  • In 2019, the Kentucky Legislature included student members on the School Safety and Resilience working group to hear testimony and develop policy recommendations to improve safety in Kentucky schools.
  • In 2020, by executive order, Governor Andy Beshear added an ex-officio student member to the state board of education.
  • In 2021, the Kentucky Department of Education amended the regulations governing School Based Decision Making (SBDM) bodies to include optional student membership.
  • As of 2022, according to the Kentucky School Board Association, 15 Kentucky school districts allow student representation on the board of education. They include: Boone County, Christian County, Clark County, Fleming County, Fulton County, Gallatin County, Graves County, Letcher County, Magoffin County, Morgan County, Owen County, Paducah Independent, Pendleton County, Shelby County, and Woodford County.

“While there are some in the Kentucky legislature who believe kids should be seen and not heard, these three bills are evidence that there are others who understand that when properly supported, young people can be powerful partners in improving our schools,” said Zachary Clifton, a member of KSVT’s legislative team and a junior at Corbin High School.

About Kentucky Student Voice Team

The Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT) is an independent, statewide, 501(c)(3) organization co-founded in 2012 by a group of Kentucky high school students. As a collective of young people, KSVT is on a mission to co-create more just, democratic Kentucky schools and communities as research, policy-advocacy & storytelling partners. Learn more about the organization at KSVT.org and follow on social media at @kystuvoiceteam.

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