Texas students want a say in school curriculum

Rachel Glaser, Nexstar - AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) -- Students pressed lawmakers for a say in what they learn and how they learn at Texas public schools Tuesday.

House Bill 1585 would require school districts get input from students before making any major curriculum changes.

Currently, state law only requires public school districts to hear public comment from teachers, parents, and community members.

"I really would have taken my education way more seriously if I had some sort of input," said Uyiosa Elegon.

A Houston ISD graduate, Elegon did the math — by the end of 12th grade he'd spent 16,000 hours in a public school.

From new textbooks, to different elective courses, to online classwork, Elegon saw many changes made without any student feedback.

"There was much frustration," Elegon said, "several teachers probably get this question daily — when am I going to use this in the real world?"

Now a freshman at the University of Houston, 18-year-old Elegon said he never got the kind of answers he was looking for and he wasn't the only student asking.

Elegon joined the Houston ISD Student Congress, a district wide organization run by students for students.

The group of high school students, all still too young to vote, took the issue to their State Representative, Jim Murphy. "The only group not represented in this process is the students, the ultimate consumer," Murphy said.

The Houston Republican's bill comes down to two words, ‘and students.' HB 1585 proposes a two-word amendment to add students to the state's education code.

Murphy said, "I think anytime you ask the governed about the laws we make, you get a better result, even if it's just inclusion." He credits the founder of the Houston ISD Student Congress, Zaakir Tameez, as the driving force behind the proposed legislation.

Now a student at the University of Virginia, Tameez was unable to attend Tuesday's hearing but watched the House Committee on Public Education take public testimony on HB 1585 online. Elegon drove in from Houston to testify in favor of the bill. "Students know, they know what's working in the curriculum and what could be improved," he said.

A marketing major, Elegon continues his push to empower students at public schools in Texas, to give them a voice in education and government. State Rep. Murphy said, "Now they are part of the governing process, they aren't just governed they are also governing themselves and getting kids involved in that process early is in the interest of society."

No one testified against the proposal or questioned Murphy about the bill during the hearing. The House Committee on Public Education is expected to vote on the bill next week.

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