School Based Decision Making Councils and You

By: Rosemary Alden

Education throughout American history has transitioned as our culture has evolved.  In 1851 the first compulsory education law was passed in Massachusetts, marking a turning point in the focus of school. Since then, the size and scale of the United States Public Education system has grown to include upwards of 50 million students in primary and secondary grades, (U.S Department of Education, fall 2016).
While the number of students in need of an education is enormous, and the system necessary to accommodate them is complicated, the primary controlling factor in education lies with the states. The state of Kentucky currently relies on the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA) and KRS law 160.345 to governor its schools.
KERA created the Board of Elementary and Secondary, the position of Commissioner of Education, and broadly increased the power of the State government over the districts with reforms in curriculum, government, and finance.  While KERA increased the state’s power over the districts, KRS 160.345 balanced it out by establishing School Based Decision Making (SBDM) Councils, a grassroots council of parents, teachers, and administrators whose main objective is to create a school climate conducive to student success.
SBDMs, as these governing bodies are called, still exist today and set school policy. According to the statues, SBDMs have power over the number of teachers in each job classification, the textbooks and other instructional materials utilized and how much of each school’s receive, the purchase of resources for school’s library or media center including technology, the curriculum, how teachers spend their time (instructional or not), which students take which classes and programs, the times the school day begins, end, and are in session, discipline policy, selection of extracurricular activities, and more. These meetings directly control what makes one school different from another. Every aspect of a student’s experience can be affected by these councils and as mentioned earlier that’s by design. It is extremely important.
Because school policy is governed this way, schools and their students have a unique opportunity to influence how they operate. West Jessamine High is one of 6.5 percent of schools in Kentucky that have an advisory student member (Prichard Committee SVT, Students as Partners release). One of the requirements for senior class President is to be that advisory member. Therefore, WE, the students at WJHS, have a rare opportunity to influence how your school is run. If you have a suggestion, comment, or constructive complaint on a subject from technology to discipline policy to after school clubs to classroom resources etc.- don’t be silent. This school is for you. Let your Student Senate Representatives know of anything to mention at SBDMs contact us through a Student Concerns Dropbox in the front office!  Be knowledgeable, be active, be involved!

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