Saturday, January 13, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 13, 2001

Students closer to vote on board

By Alice Keesing
Advertiser Education Writer

Hawaii’s public school students moved a step closer to gaining a voting voice on the Board of Education this week.

The board approved 9-4 a resolution that would give the student member the right to vote on all issues except those relating to personnel and budget.

Students have been trying to win a voting voice from the board and Legislature since the student member position was created in 1988.

It’s the first time the board has agreed to the move, which student leaders hope will pave the way for legislative approval this session.

"This is a big, big step," said student board member Matthew McLane. "Students are fighting on many different levels to be heard."

The bill must pass both houses of the Legislature and be signed by the governor before being put to the voters as a constitutional amendment in the next election.

While some board members expressed concern about maturity and life experience, McLane said that the student member, being in school, has insight the others lack.

Second vice chairwoman Karen Knudsen was one of four who voted against the measure.

She said that while the caliber of students serving on the board is impressive, she has some concerns.

"We come under such pressure for certain issues, and I’m not sure teenagers are ready for that kind of thing."

It also raises the question of equal representation on the board, Knudsen said. "Even though what we do has a direct impact on students, we don’t have a teacher sitting on the board. By the time we start carving out very special interests, I do have concerns."

Knudsen noted, however, that she is impressed with the Hawaii State Student Council’s presentation to the board, and will support the measure now that the board has passed it.

House Education Chairman Rep. Ken Ito, D-48th (Kaneohe) said he supports giving the student member a vote, but there are legal issues that need to be resolved, because the student is not an elected official.

The student board member is elected by public school students in Grades 7 through 12.

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