The Baltimore County Student Member of the Board of Education can vote on the school system’s budget starting in the 2023-2024 school year.
Baltimore County will now allow the Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB) to vote on the Baltimore County Public School Systems (BCPS) budget alongside the other local board of education members. The new authority was approved via legislation sponsored by the Baltimore County Delegation during the 2023 session and signed into law by Governor Wes Moore.
The Baltimore Banner reported on the historical change:
For years, one member of Baltimore County’s school board has been excluded from decisions on the budget — a $2.6 billion sum that encompasses textbooksto school buses. It’s the youngest person on the board, who represents thousands of students, who’s directly affected by budget decisions and who some say isn’t old enough to have that type of power: the student board member.
That all changes this upcoming school year.
Baltimore City also passed legislation that gives voting rights to its students. An election in the fall will determine who that student will be. Baltimore County and Baltimore City’s SMOBs now join Montgomery and Anne Arundel SMOBs as the only four districts, out of Maryland’s 24, with budget voting powers.
In 2021, student members of local school boards joined together and formed the Maryland Association of Student Board Members to advocate for expanding their voting rights and authority.
What’s in a vote? The role of student members
Voting authority comes with controversy. The role and authority of student members on local boards of education have long been debated throughout Maryland.
Most of Maryland’s local boards of education reserve at least one membership for a current student of the jurisdiction’s public schools to help to shape policy and decision-making. The rights and roles of student members vary significantly across jurisdictions, however. The Baltimore Sun reported:
In Maryland, a student board member’s influence varies widely from county to county. Some students are nominated or selected for boards on a rotating basis from a county’s high schools. Some don’t sit on the dais with adult members, but at their own table. Some counties limit students’ ability to participate in votes, particularly those related to budgetary matters or personnel decisions.
Last year, the Maryland Court of Appeals — the State’s highest-ranking court — ruled against an attempt to limit the voting rights of the Howard County Board of Education student member.