After passing the House with a 125-10 vote, MC 7-15, a bill to expand voting rights for Montgomery County’s Student Member of the Board of Education, was filibustered minutes before sine die by Frederick County Senator Michael Hough (R).
“Why would you want a sixteen year old or seventeen year old student to have a vote on collective bargaining and pay rates?” Senator Hough remarked during his filibuster. “Here we are talking about funding for school Boards. How do you square it that a huge chunk of funding in Montgomery County is being voted on by a sixteen year old?”
“I’ve found that the [student] school Board members are as mature and work as hard as the adults members. It’s about time to allow them a vote,” Montgomery County Senator and former MCPS Board of Education member Nancy King expressed in response.
Hough continued to question precedents for SMOB voting rights and other details regarding the county school Board.
Despite widespread expressions of displeasure among other Senators, Hough halted a motion to vote one minute before assembly adjournment by voicing concerns for other, unrelated legislation that would guarantee Montgomery County funding from the state’s Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI).
“I’m going to keep the floor here. It’s important because we just had a discussion about GCEI, and I want to ask what percent of the GCEI does Montgomery County get?” Hough questioned as the clock struck midnight. Senator King quickly answered: “Not enough.”
Hough’s district would not have been impacted by the bill. The GCEI is system designed to provide additional funding to state recognized ‘high cost areas for education.’ Earlier during the session, the Democrat-led Senate countered Governor Larry Hogan’s insistence on only funding the GCEI at 50 percent with a bill that mandated full GCEI funding.
MCR President Richard Yarrow described Hough’s actions as “disrespectful” and “plainly irresponsible legislating.”
“Maryland’s democratic system is built on great ideals, but they require the work of great political leaders to make the system strong. Holding legislation that has no relevance to your county hostage because you are angry about an unrelated previous bill is not responsible in the least and does not do those ideals justice,” Yarrow remarked, adding that student leaders in Montgomery County next year will continue to push for expanded SMOB voting rights.
In a statement posted on social media, current Student Member of the Board Dahlia Huh wrote that she is “incredibly disappointed by the events that transpired.”
Nonetheless, Huh expressed optimism that expanded SMOB voting rights will ultimately come to fruition, “for every opponent, there are dozens out there who are supporters,” she stated.
Both Huh and Yarrow noted that they, along with many other student advocates, have devoted many dozens of hours lobbying and working with legislators in Annapolis during the past year.
MCR Public Relations Deputy Rachit Agarwal, who spent eight hours on the last day of legislative session lobbying in Annapolis, stated that he believes it was “dirty politics that impeded the students’ progress.”
“We fought very hard for this bill and it was frustrating, to say the least, to see it die in session because of a few regressive politicians,” he noted.
The bill (HB 86) was sponsored by House Majority Leader Delegate Anne Kaiser and won almost unanimous support from the Montgomery County Senate and House delegations. The bill would have granted the Montgomery County SMOB a vote on the school system budget in addition to existing voting rights. A similar bill reached the Senate floor in 2012, but was special ordered by former Senator Brian Frosh during the second reading.
Article by the MoCo Student News Staff