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Virginia students could soon get some say in statewide education decisions

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Public school students across Virginia may soon be getting more input into education policy.

The kids are alright. In fact, they're currently celebrating a big win – getting a bill through the House and the Senate and onto the governor's desk. Matthew Savage is a teenage Democrat who helped create the Virginia Bipartisan Civic Engagement Coalition, and he worked with lawmakers to craft a bill creating a new advisory board of students from across Virginia.

"We saw decisions made during the COVID era where we felt students weren't being very represented in these discussions and these conversations," Savage says. "And therefore you had these people making decisions that impact us more than they do anyone else and we weren't really being involved."

The original idea was to add a non-voting student member to the state Board of Education. But as the bill moved through the Senate, it changed into a bill creating an advisory body that would make an annual report to the Board of Education.

Brady Hillis is a teenage Republican who helped create the coalition.

"We don't want someone to be sitting on the Board of Education just as a resume builder and not actually represent the students across the Commonwealth," Hills says. "If there's a group of them that annually report to the Board of Education, the Board of Education is going to hear those concerns and it's going to make more of an impact than just one non-voting student advisor every year that goes to the quarterly meetings of the Board of Education."

The bill passed the House and the Senate and is now being considered by the governor.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.