The Prince George's County legislative delegation in Annapolis last week voted 15-to-15 in favor of a bill giving the county school board's student member limited voting rights, probably assuring its consideration by the General Assembly during this session.
Democratic Del. Dennis Donaldson of District Heights, the bill's sponsor, has sought voting rights for the student board member every year since the position was created in 1978. The student member is elected by representatives of student government in all county secondary schools.
The school board has opposed the bill since 1978, and it was killed by the delegation during the 1979 session. Last year, according to Donaldson, the bill was delayed in getting out of the delegation because of a lengthy amendment process it needed to improve its chances for approval in the Senate. As a result, the measure did not make it to a vote by the legislature.
The delegation will have one more chance to vote the bill down before it goes to the full assembly, where Donaldson said it has "a real good shot."
Currently the student member has a voice-only vote that is not counted in official tallies of the nine-member body. The bill would allow the student's vote to count on all matters related to student activities and curriculum only, but the precise limits on votes may be subject to interpretation, according to Donaldson.
The school board opposes voting rights because it would add representation to the school board beyond the nine members elected by the taxpaying voters who support the schools. Donaldson, pointed out that several counties, including Anne Arundel, have voting student members.
"I think the students are the consumers of education. If consumer rights are proper in other areas, then they are proper in education too," said Donaldson.
In other legislative action a county delegation committee approved a local bill increasing the maximum pay for members of the Alcoholic Beverages Board of Liquor License Commissioners, its attorneys and administrator.