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Question of the day

Tuesday, Nov 6, 2007

The setup

Elected school officials across Illinois are being asked to back a proposed change to state law that would prohibit voting-age students from serving on the boards of the public districts where they are enrolled.

James Russell, a spokesman for the Illinois Association of School Boards, said it’s not that his group believes teenagers are not mature enough to be elected leaders where they attend classes. Instead, he said, a high school student on a board poses too many potential conflicts of interest.

“The student is now, technically, his teacher or principal’s ‘boss,’ ” according to the recommendation from the school board association’s resolutions committee. “The student is now voting on all salary and contract decisions for all personnel in the district.”

Committee members, who serve on school boards statewide, said problems also could arise because students would become privy to confidential discussions about disciplinary matters involving peers and teachers.

The question:
Should students be kept off school boards? Explain fully.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - JGatz - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 9:50 am:

    For the problems they list there are ways around it. First, if there is privileged information about peers or teachers, the student member can recuse themself, the same a member of a village board or city council would do if a family member is up for contract, etc. Secondly, the student that is engaged enough to run for the board position will likely be mature enough to understand the gravity of his position.

    I feel that limiting the participation on boards negatively affects those students who want to participate. Another solution; have a student liason with full voting/board privileges for all matter except the few ’special’ issues that Mr. Russell speaks to.

  2. - Pat Collins - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 9:52 am:

    ok, how common can this be? You’re really talking mostly Comm. college boards. Most kids aren’t 18 long enough to get elected in HS. Not to mention how hard it is to get elected to school boards!

    Talk about a solution looking for a problem!

  3. - Reddbyrd - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 9:59 am:

    Let them run.
    The younger candidates have fewer distractions and hang ups than the +21 crowd. Perhps a few 18 yer old might help schools become more user friendly

  4. - Ghost - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 9:59 am:

    No they should not. These “conflicts” are spurious. The students conflicts would apply to any parents as well. The parents of the kids in the school would be voting on salaries for their kids teachers, access to priviledge info etc. This is a red herring.
    In fact the board could benefit from having student perspectives. It seems the teachers are afraid of having student input…which suggest a bigger problem with education. This is reform in the wrong direction,silencing the voice and participation of those directly vested in education and with knowledge of how it is functioning in reality. They just want a board made up of people with no direct knowledge or experience with the day to day operation of schools. People should fear such a law, not praise it.

  5. - pchappel - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:00 am:

    Why create another special class of citizen? Either they are 18, legally adults and able to vote and be elected, or they are not. But then that might be too simple an answer :-)

  6. - Levois - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:00 am:

    A case could be made to keep them off the school boards. I’ve never really thought about this issue much. I can’t say I’d have a problem if a person of about 18 or 19 years old were to serve on his local school board after they left high school.

  7. - Justice - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:00 am:

    Congratulations on the students getting involved in the first place. The mere fact that they want to vote and participate should be exciting news to us all. I say let them participate on boards. It is a good thing. As to the worry about them affecting decisions on salaries and contracts…..why not? It’s time we let those eligible to die for our country and qualified to vote, have a say in their future. The teachers and their peers have the right to vote on potential conflicts of interest as well, such as higher pay for poor performance. Accountability scaring the teachers and principals?

  8. - YouNeverSawMe - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:05 am:

    Yea… I’m not so sure that students at the high school level should have a seat on their school boards. At the college level is more adequate, because the student is considered an adult, in most cases, and is paying INTO the university/college.

    However, I do feel that there is a need at the HS level for students to have more input into what they are being taught. Many times you see a board filled with parents who are ONLY CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR CHILD’S EDUCATION and not the betterment of the school and district as a whole. Its kinda hard for a parent who went to school in the 70s and 60s to identify with what’s going on in the HS today, IMHO. The curriculum, social interaction of students/teachers/administrators, and technology is TOTALLY different from then to now. I believe, there needs to be a voice on the board that is more intune with current practices. Sometimes its hard to come by from a person who has not been in high school or college for 15+ years.

    Frankly, that’s one of the issues I see concerning many of our schools throughout Illinois– They are not in touch with current practices and trends.

  9. - OneMan - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:06 am:

    If your kid goes to the school don’t you have some of the same issues. For example you are the boss of your kids teacher, coach, etc…

    Seems a bit daft to me.

  10. - unclesam - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:08 am:

    How’s this for an alternative: the student can be a member of a school board as long as the student does not attend a school within that district. Same requirement for parents if their children are attending schools in that district.

    They are still allowed to be a member of a school board without any potential “conflicts” described in the question.

    If that doesn’t appeal, then I agree with allowing them to serve on the school board, but restricted from voting only on the issue of teacher salaries. In terms of contracts for services, I think the student would be very capable to make his/her own decision.

  11. - Niles Township - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:09 am:

    And this is what our school boards, and their association, should be worried about given the dire state of education here in Illinois? What are they thinking?

  12. - Chillimon - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:11 am:

    Regarding how often this happens, in Central Illinois Aaron Schock, now a State Representative was elected to the Peoria Dist. 150 board and there is currently a youth elected the Dunlap School Board.

  13. - Jake From Elwood - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:14 am:

    If spouses of teachers can run for school board and cast votes to approve labor contracts, I guess I would not have any problem with a student being elected as one of seven members of a school board. The wider the pool of candidates for public office, the better.

  14. - 4% - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:18 am:

    They should absolutely be allowed to run. As was mentioned earlier, using the same analogy, parents with kids in the district should not be allowed to run. People whose spouse is a teacher/employee should not be allowed to run.

    But they can in these other cases.

    Finally, I find it somewhat laughable that legislators who OFTEN have conflicts would be voting to ban these students from running.

    Do the Illinois legislators with insurance licenses vote on insurance legislation - YES.

    Do Illinois legislators that farm vote on agricultural issues - YES.

    Do Illinois legislators who are attorneys vote on tort-related issues - YES.

  15. - game plan - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:21 am:

    I belive that experience in life is what we look for in educational leadership. I firmly believe students should be consulted in matters that most affect them. The question is do they have the vision to look broadly at unit districts, or have the capacity to fall back on experiential opportuntities in finance, curriculum, discipline for students and employees, do they can they read a spread sheet, understand the intricacies of student special education and the law, do they understand no child left behind, and more importantly can they remain confidential?

  16. - A Citizen - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:23 am:

    Perhaps one-third of the school board should be required to be students. This is a complement of interest not a conflict. The teachers’ union and administrators are showing an alarming level of protectionism on this issue. It would be refreshing to inject the students’ influence and perspective into these organizations.

  17. - cermak_rd - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:29 am:

    As to whether younger people have the experience to do the job, surely that should be decided by the voters. Remember, by and large these people aren’t being appointed, they’re being elected by the voters.

    I agree, this is a solution in search of a problem. The same issue would come up with parents of students being the teachers’ boss as well.

  18. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:31 am:

    Must not be many parents of teenagers here. As the parent of several, I would say - are you out of your minds? Of course, high school students shouldn’t serve on the board of the school they attend. Boards deal with business matters (contracts, negotiations, etc), hiring, discipline and setting policy. They don’t design curriculum - that’s for the professionals they hire.

  19. - He makes Ryan Look like a Saint - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:32 am:

    They should be allowed to run. There are many sharp kids out there, that are in tune with what is wrong with schools today. Having watched the Springfield School Board on TV, I am convinced that there are way TOO many adults that have no idea what is going on in the schools.

    Plus if an adult can’t beat an 18 year old in an election, they should not be there in the first place.

  20. - Daaa - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:35 am:

    If we let students in it might break up the great overuse of executive sessions what a shame. If they cant be on the school board they shouldnt have to pay taxes(or their parents) in the houses they live in and since there is not a financial probelm at any school this should be simple and lets not let them go fight in Irag until they can be on the school board. The school board assocaition obviously has too many employees with nothing to do get a life

  21. - anon again - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:50 am:

    With teacher tenure and unions the over 18 yr old school board members cant get rid of a bad or problem teacher what makes you think one 18 yr old board member could get rid of a teacher or control raises,if thats the worry make them all have to be 18 maybe they can help with some of the problems we seem to be having at schools i have to agree the school board assocaition needs something to do, wouldnt the 18 yr old also have imput on the state school board association bet they wouldn’t agree with this position

  22. - Fan of the Game - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 10:50 am:

    Because of my job, I cannot legally hold a myriad of positions, including school board member and county board member. A student is no different. There are clear conflicts of interest in the areas of student privacy and teacher and student discipline.

    Students should not be allowed to serve on school boards.

  23. - so-called "Austin Mayor" - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 11:14 am:

    Let them run.

    If a particular student-candidate lacks the maturity for school board opponents can certainly make that a legitimate issue.

    The pool of bad candidates is not so small that excluding potentially bad student-candidates will make a positive difference; and the pool of good candidates is not so large that voters can afford to exclude potentially good student-candidates.

    – SCAM

  24. - Wumpus - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 11:22 am:

    James Russell, students are not mature enough? Have you seen what is going on in Sprinigfield/Cook County/name your locality? Let them run! Let the voters decide.

  25. - Angry Chicagoan - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 11:43 am:

    If this is a conflict of interest, then so is having citizens allowed to vote for city, county, state and federal government. Message from earth to the Illinois Association of School Boards — it’s called Democracy.

  26. Pingback Politics: Should high school students be banned from school board elections? - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 11:48 am:

    […] Hat tip: Rich Miller. No Comments, Comment or Ping […]

  27. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 12:02 pm:

    Holy Hypocrisy, Batman.

    Students are “conflicted” and shouldn’t be allowed to run for the school board.

    On the other hand, the school board association and their cohorts at the superintendent’s club, er, association have no problems with letting the same lawyer that represents the school district also serve as the superintendent’s personal attorney if/when the sup’t gets in a jam.

  28. - Carl Nyberg - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 12:32 pm:

    Conflicts of interest?

    If conflicts of interest are the problem then let’s address conflicts of interest.

    Here’s some local examples from Proviso Township. Let’s look at two school boards, District 209 (Proviso Township High Schools) and District 88, an elementary school district that mostly serves Bellwood and Stone Park.

    There are three District 209 employees on the D88 board of education: Tommy Miller, Althea Busby and Ron Anderson.

    Who is the attorney for District 88? The president of the D209 board of education, Emanuel “Chris” Welch. In one six month period Welch billed D88 about $200,000.

    Ron Anderson was recently hired at D209 to replace an employee who was hired at D88. Anderson has a long list of arrests and convictions. Who are his “known associates”? Anderson was arrested with Billy Welch, the brother of Chris Welch.

    Anderson’s most recent situation where police came to his house and brought him to the station was for six pounds of marijuana in the house. I won’t use the term “arrested” b/c Anderson sued the local paper for defamation for characterizing it as an arrest. Who was his lawyer? Chris Welch.

    Doesn’t it look like Anderson was receiving legal services as a result of being on the board of education? Isn’t it illegal for board members to receive compensation for being school board members, especially from district vendors?

    And I won’t even go into all the details of Proviso West hoops coach Tommy Miller. Miller is a serial sexual predator on teenage girls. Miller is a frat brother of Chris Welch.

    Chicago Public Schools has buried numerous investigations of Miller by finding allegations unsubstantiated in case after case.

    The District 209 board includes two employees of Eugene Moore, Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Moore gets members of his political organization and his family jobs at D209. Recently the mother of Moore’s granddaughter was hired to supervise the district’s foundation.

    Other conflicts of interest on the D209 board…. Bob Cox’s brother is a district employee. By itself this isn’t a huge conflict of interest, but I’d put it on the same level as a student being on the board of ed.

    Board member Dan Adams has been squeezed to fire people (Generoso Trombetta) by Melrose Park village president Ron Serpico. Adams has multiple relatives on Melrose Park payroll.

    Robin Foreman is the aunt of Nikita Johnson, the business manager who now has an “deputy superintendent” title.

    And speaking of Johnson, she’s dating–and rumored to be engaged–to Chris Welch, the president of the board of education.

    But IASB is worried that students present a theoretical conflict of interest on school boards!? IASB is clueless about how egregiously the existing conflict of interest law is being abused.

    IASB is fixing non-existent problems as an excuse to keep paying its staff while ducking real problems.

  29. - Anon - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 1:13 pm:

    Sheesh.. sounds like somebody’s a little afraid of real democracy. Conflict of interest my butt - sounds a lot more like ‘fear of disclosure’.

  30. - Zatoichi - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 1:14 pm:

    Let the kid run. As others have said, if anyone can put together a campaign and convince the voters they have what it takes, give them a shot. The vast majority of people have no interest in the effort (and scutiny) needed to get elected. If a parent of a current student can be on the Board, then a student willing to put in the work to campaign should have that same right. If they make a bad case for themselves during the campaign they will not get elected. There will always be examples adults doing dirty tricks to get elected or having obvious conflicts so what is new?

  31. - downhereforyears - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 1:14 pm:

    I agree with the majority….let them serve. Lets see, they can vote for the school board members, but you don’t want them to become one. makes no sense…could it be that one district is having some problems with an 18 year old member who is asking all the right questions?

  32. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 1:17 pm:

    This is a solution in search of a problem.

    Seriously, someone wants to stop a student from engaging in the political process? Are you kidding me? We ought to give the students a loud round of applause.

  33. - Enemy of the State - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 1:44 pm:

    Wow. At seventeen students may enlist in the military, finish training shortly after age 18, use automatic weapons and operate equipment worth millions of dollars and otherwise become highly trained killers on government salary, yet we don’t trust them to help run the local school board. Is this a great state or what?

  34. - been there - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 2:57 pm:

    Advertising companies know that American teenagers have enormous amounts of money to spend. That means that they pay large amounts of sales tax. That makes them taxpayers. So the superintendents, assorted education bureaucrats, principals and teachers already are their employees. Just one of the many reasons that students should be encouraged to serve on school boards.

  35. - anon again - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 3:10 pm:

    Lets just let them quit paying taxes and i agree with anon it is all about fear of disclosure

  36. - pickles!! - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 3:26 pm:

    don’t see it beig a big issue, since it’s probably not a very common occurance. But if the student is of voting age, i don’t see it as an issue.

  37. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 4:54 pm:

    Interesting post, Carl.

    For more conflicts, go to the IASB annual conference next week and see what companies are picking up the tab for various receptions, entertainment, and “hospitality suites” for the school board members and superintendents.


  38. - JakeCP A Student Rep on the LSC - Tuesday, Nov 6, 07 @ 5:07 pm:

    As many of you know I am Jacob Schulz, the host of Jake’s CHicago Politics. Some of you who may have kept up with my show knows that, I am a part of the Local School Council at Lincoln Park High School and I am only 15 years old. Now I undertand that the serving on the dirstict/ township etc etc board is different but I am sure they could adjust the rules for those who are under 18. On the LSC, I am not allowed to vote on salaries or if the Principal’s contract should be renewed, but everyone else is. SO here are two different solutions, First thing is to create a Local School Council (like the one in Chicago) one for each school. Let students run at the school and get elected by the students and just have to abide by certain rules such as not voting on salaries and contract renewals. In my opinion I feel that I should have a say on whether or not the principal’s contract gets renewed seeing that she/he’s job is to run a good school for the STUDENTS. If that is not happening then I think the person with the most knowledge of what’s really going on in the school which is the student (and not just people who live in the neighborhood) should get to vote on that school’s progress. To make my point, I just think that students who aren’t elgible to vote shouldn’t be voted for in actual elections. The school should handle that by holding a non-binding advisory poll for the students. That’s at least how the LSC works.

  39. - A Former Board member - Thursday, Nov 8, 07 @ 7:16 am:

    By all means an 18 year old should serve! A conscientious board would have no problems dealing with this situation. The IASB has far greater issues to resolve, and should not spend any time on this at all. What is Mr. Russell really afraid of?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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