May 13, 2009
By MARCUS FUNK
The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – At SMU, Lamar Dowling has more authority over education policy than any public school student in Texas.
Dowling has full voting power on the SMU Board of Trustees, giving him a voice over his professors and university president, as well as the school's multimillion-dollar budget – powers well beyond his public school counterparts, who have no direct influence in the management of their schools.
"The other board members genuinely want to understand the student perspective and my point of view," said Dowling, a senior from Ruston, La.
Some in Austin think that those running public university systems and school districts would benefit from similar exposure to youthful insight. A pair of young Democratic lawmakers representing college constituencies have proposed bills to give full voting rights to student representatives on university boards of trustees and to require school districts to seat a high school student on districtwide advisory boards.
Their efforts have run into opposition from hesitant lawmakers, many of them older Republicans with homes far from the ivory towers of the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M.
They argue that students should not be given authority over their professors – let alone the enormous budgets school districts tackle every year – and that local boards should determine education policy, not lawmakers appealing to students who might vote.
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