Spring 2023

Spring 2023: DemocracyReady NY Youth Members Unpack Student Councils in New York State

Prom and Beyond: Reflections on NY's Student Council Bill

Senate Bill S1732 symbolizes historic investment in student leadership across New York State. This is great; however, student leadership must go beyond symbols and tokens.

I am a 2022 graduate of Syracuse City Schools in upstate New York. Throughout my K-12 education, I found the importance of true student voice and advocacy to better the civic climate in a school. Typically these values are assumed to be in high school student council bodies — however, student councils 1) do not exist at every high school, and 2) their scope of work varies drastically.

Empowering Student Voice: Unleashing the Potential of Student Councils in Schools

As a recent graduate from New Rochelle High School, I have had the opportunity to see how a student government that represented over 3,000 students operated first hand.

Student councils have long been recognized as important entities within educational institutions, contributing significantly to the student experience and empowering students to have a voice in school matters. Acknowledging the significance of these bodies, New York Senate Bill S1732 sets out to address a pressing concern: the absence of student governments in schools and districts across the state. This bill will mandate the establishment of student governments in every school in New York. However, we must question whether this requirement alone is sufficient to genuinely represent student voices and grant them meaningful decision-making power in their school settings.

Should All High Schools Have Student Councils?

Are student governments the key to ensuring students’ voices are heard, or are they simply a popularity contest?

In keeping with its title, DemocracyReady NY seeks to foster a representative learning environment across schools in New York State. After organizing the DemcoracyReady NY Civic learning week, I made it clear to my fellow participants that student input was the key to advancing education. Speaking with educators and policymakers about the problems we observed in the educational system helped us gain clarity, or on the other side, provided us with a strategy to attempt to fix it. It only took us, the students, to speak up. Entering into the DemocracyReady NY Youth Ambassador program, the need for student voice was at the forefront of my thoughts.

Student Power Unleashed: NY Senate Bill S1732 Igniting Civic Engagement for a Brighter Future

3 Ways to Enhance NY's Senate Bill S1732 for Stronger Student Engagement

While the bill represents a step in the right direction, its requirement for student governments in schools alone may not be sufficient to amplify student voices. Given the limited number of positions available within the student council, not all students will have the opportunity to actively participate in civic matters, especially in schools with a significant student population. A pertinent example is Francis Lewis High School, which accommodates 4,000 students but only offers 19 spots on the student council. Consequently, it is imperative to consider further enhancements to the bill's recommendations.
Back to skip to quick links