Education is on the ballot this November. From our next Secretary of Education to local school board seats, the results of the November 2020 elections will determine the education leaders chosen to guide schools in an extremely pivotal moment. Amid ongoing school reopening debates, coming funding debates, nationwide reckonings with systemic racism and more, Student Voice believes it is more important than ever for young people to engage in the democratic process to protect their right to an equitable education.
This fall, Student Voice has worked to elect education leaders who will listen to student voices and prioritize advancing equity. All the way down the ballot, we have mobilized our network of thousands of students to get involved in the key races that affect their educations.
School Board Town Halls
Now more than ever, ongoing debates about reopening schools have amplified the importance of local school boards to students’ educations, especially amid COVID-19. From California to South Carolina, Student Voice has worked with local student organizers to host school board town halls and hold candidates accountable to serving students’ needs. In the nationwide series of events, students questioned candidates running for their school boards about concerns that they identified in their schools and communities.
In Kentucky, Pragya Upreti moderated a town hall for the candidates for Fayette County Public Schools’ school board in Lexington, Kentucky with the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team. Regarding why she chose to host a school board town hall for her school, Upreti said, "Young people hold such a pivotal stake in the fight to make our schools and communities more equitable, and the value of our voices and experiences feels most meaningful when brought before educators, administrators, community members, and decision makers and are used to incite real, policy-level change”.
Local Student Organizing
In addition to school board town halls, students working with Student Voice have gotten involved with the November 2020 elections in their schools and communities in a variety of ways.
Claire Gelillo, a Student Voice team member and the President of Montgomery County Students for Change in Rockville, Maryland, has led the effort to register every eligible student in her school district to vote during the November 2020 elections. About her local organizing, Gelillo said, “While the national discourse is centered on the presidential election, it’s so important that people understand the equal significance of state and local elections. That’s why I’ve been working with peers in my organization, Montgomery County Students for Change, to register all eligible high school seniors to vote and have conversations about the importance of school board and ballot question elections taking place in our home county that will directly affect our educations”.
Sydney Ward, a Student Voice team member in Provo, Utah, has also been working to ensure students in her state of Utah are engaged in the upcoming elections. Regarding her efforts to encourage her fellow students to register to vote, spread critical information about candidates for local office and more, Ward said, “I am organizing so that we will be listened to. I’m working with candidates through social media to make sure young people aren’t left out of critical conversations any longer”.
Student Voice Initiatives
This fall, Student Voice has launched an ongoing training and community-building webinar series within our Learning Lab, the District Direct Action program. Through District Direct Action, over 100 new students have joined our existing network of student organizers to learn the basics of school board advocacy and take action with their school boards, including through collaborating on a questionnaire to be given to their school board members.
In addition, Student Voice has released a comprehensive, interactive guide to Engaging with Your School Board. The guide, complete with student examples and ready-to-use templates, details the role of a school board within the broader education system and provides ideas for students who are ready to begin advocating for change with their school board.
About Student Voice
Student Voice is a by-students, for-students 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in all 50 states to equip students as storytellers, organizers and institutional partners who advocate for student-driven solutions to educational inequity. Through direct civic action, Student Voice helps students hold their schools and surrounding communities accountable to the Student Bill of Rights and prepares them to become lifelong agents of social and political change. For more information about Student Voice, visit our website at StuVoice.org and follow @Stu_Voice and #StuVoice on social media.