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Students from Montgomery, Schenectady and Albany counties participated Wednesday in Assemblyman Angelo Santabaraba’s 2017 Student Cabinet at the state Capitol. The students conducted a hearing on the Every Student Succeeds Act draft plan.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara’s 2017 Student Cabinet met Wednesday at the state Capitol to conduct a hearing on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) draft plan recently released by the New York State Regents.

Education advocates testified and answered questions from local students about the New York State Regents’ draft ESSA plan. After the hearing, students worked in groups to draft their thoughts on the plan and present their own proposals followed by a visit to the Assembly Chamber to get a first-hand look at the legislative proceedings.

“I formed the Student Cabinet during my first year in office to give a voice to our community’s youth. Now in its fifth year, it has grown in size and participation,” Santabarbara said. “Students have had a lot to say about the decisions affecting them and their future. Our first meeting this year produced lively debates and discussions about how local schools are funded. The timing of this meeting couldn’t be better, giving students the opportunity to weigh in on the recently released draft ESSA plan, which directly impacts their learning environment.”

The Student Cabinet was assembled by Santabarbara to give students from Schenectady, Montgomery and Albany County, in the ten school districts represented in the 111th Assembly District, a voice in the critical issues affecting their education. Their first meeting this year was held in the City of Schenectady at Schenectady County Community College, where students worked in groups to learn about school budgets and how local schools are funded with state aid. The students then drafted their own school budgets and allocated state education aid based on those proposals.

“What a fabulous experience for students to see what happens behind the scenes with not only how government works, but also our education system,” Oppenheim-Ephrata-St. Johnsville High School Principal David Slater said. “It was an opportunity for students to collaborate with students from other school districts and exchange views.”

“The opportunity for students at this age to experience and engage in the legislative process is key for the future of effective, informed representation in our state and nation,” Canajoharie AP Government teacher Blake Smith said.

“It was a great experience to be on the Assembly floor while the members were voting on real bills,” Francesca Nare, a senior at Canajoharie High School said. “It was also exciting to be a part of a mock hearing and be able to ask questions about education.”