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'We ought to have some say' | Virginia creates student advisory board to the state board of education

The General Assembly passed a bipartisan bill creating a student advisory board to the state board of education. It's heading to the governor to sign.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Virginia students will soon have more say in their education. A bill creating a student advisory board to the state board of education is heading to the governor's desk for a signature. It's slated to take effect in July 2022.

Starting next school year, a group of students will craft policy recommendations for the Commonwealth. Some students say it's a much-needed step to include their voices in education decisions, since the focus has been on parents and teachers throughout the pandemic.

“We're more impacted by that than our parents are or any other members of our community," Fairfax County Public Schools student Matt Savage said. "And we ought to have some say in representation in those decisions that are made, and ensure that we have student voices in the room in making those decisions.”

Savage is the democratic co-chair of the Virginia Bipartisan Civic Engagement Coalition. He worked with his republican co-chair, Brady Hillis, from Richmond and some delegates to propose the student advisory board.

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“We see on local school boards, we have student representatives that advise the school board on issues that pertain to students in that school system," Hillis said. "This will allow that to come full throttle statewide, and make sure that students are heard all the way to the top of where curriculum and policy decisions and education are made in Virginia.”

Once the bill becomes law and takes effect in July, students will have an opportunity to apply.

Then, they said the governor will appoint eight students to the board -- one from each VDOE superintendent region.

The student board will then meet multiple times a year and present their policy recommendations to the state board at least annually.

Both students stressed that this legislation was a bipartisan effort -- on their part -- and the part of the General Assembly.

“We feel that education for students should be more nonpartisan, bipartisan, rather than partisan," Hillis said.

“And so we've been able to gather bipartisan support, because there's kind of this newfound interest in students rights," Savage said.

The students expect Gov. Glenn Youngkin to sign the bill into law in the coming weeks.

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