Middle School Students Volunteer for GEA-Repeal campaign
Middle School Students Volunteer on Campaign to Repeal The GEA
Last year, Eric Stenzel and Michaela Medeck, two eighth-grade students in Ms. Eileen Walsh-Ahrens’ class were inspired to be proactive for a modern cause. After studying the unit on the Progressive Era (the 1890s to 1920s during which widespread social activism and political reform took root in the United States), they began to think how they might help bring about social reform in their own times.
Observing their parents and educators rallying for the repeal of the Gap Elimination Adjustment that withholds millions of dollars in promised aid from New York school districts each year, Eric and Michaela found their cause, and as student leaders, assisted with the political action for the Sayville Advocacy Group.
The Sayville Advocacy Group, a coalition of residents, teachers, and administrators working together to advance common sense and effective education policies and led by resident Dina Protus, spearheaded the local movement to get fair funding for Sayville Schools. The students joined and supported that action and helped collect over a thousand signatures from residents petitioning for the repeal of the GEA.* In the process, they also learned how to be responsible citizens even though they are still well below the voting age.
This year, as ninth graders, Eric and Michaela recruited Ned Malik and Rob Cascio to help; all four are looking forward to the next political action issue.
“The students helped raise awareness of the issue (GEA) on social media and attended multiple school events to get residents to sign our petitions,” Ms. Walsh-Ahrens said. “I couldn't be more proud of them!”
Recently, the students hand delivered their petitions to Senators Tom Croci and Phil Boyle, who were not only receptive and impressed by their youthful resourcefulness, but was able to assure them that progress has been made toward restoring some of the GEA aid to school districts. “Thank you very much for all your hard work,” the Senators told the students.
*The GEA was originally created in to help close New York State’s budget deficit by skimming off a percentage of the funds allocated for schools and giving that money to other New York State programs. Now that New York State currently has a sizeable budget surplus, Albany continues to impose the GEA on our schools. The GEA, combined with ongoing, major state-aid reductions, insufficient mandate relief, and the enactment of the property tax cap, has created serious financial consequences for schools and programs that adversely affect our students.