Law­maker wants to lower age re­quire­ment for school boards

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Monte Wha­ley

A Colorado law­maker wants to give stu­dents as young as 16 a crack at serv­ing on lo­cal school boards.

State Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Long­mont Demo­crat, said he will in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion in 2018 that would al­low ei­ther lo­cal vot­ers or a school board to lower the min­i­mum age to run for a board seat to 16.

Vot­ers must be 18 to cast a bal­lot in fed­eral, state and lo­cal elec­tions in Colorado.

Singer said he’s work­ing with sev­eral youth groups, in­clud­ing Project VOYCE, which de­vel­ops fu­ture lead­ers in un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties, to ham­mer out the de­tails of his pro­posal. He said the ob­ject is to get teens in­volved in the po­lit­i­cal process and to give a voice to those who are most im­pacted by a school board’s de­ci­sion.

“Once you sit down with a 16- or 17-year-old, you quickly un­der­stand they know more about what’s go­ing on in their school district than most adults,” Singer said.

“Ev­ery­one says bad habits start in your teens,” Singer said. “But it’s also when good habits start, like eat­ing a good diet, ex­er­cis­ing and vot­ing.”

At least two U.S. cities have low­ered the min­i­mum age to vote in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in the past four years — Takoma Park and Hy­attsville, Md. Six­teenand 17-year-olds can vote in school board elec­tions in Berke­ley, Calif.

The Youth Op­por­tu­ni­ties Ad­vi­sory Board is try­ing to lower the vot­ing age for mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in Boul­der.

Matt Cook, di­rec­tor of pub­lic pol­icy and ad­vo­cacy for the Colorado As­so­ci­a­tion of School Boards, said he doesn’t know enough about Singer’s pro­posal to com­ment on it.

“It’s hard for me to say right now, if this is a good idea or bad idea,” Cook said.

But, he said, many school boards in­clude non-vot­ing stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tives to ad­vise on is­sues im­pact­ing stu­dents.

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