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$94 million for school technology upgrades through Smart Schools Bond Act

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Fri, Jul 31st 2020 11:55 am

148 Investment plans approved by Smart Schools review board

$2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act supports classroom technology, high-tech security & school connectivity

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced approval of 148 Smart Schools investment plans aimed at improving school security and reimagining teaching and learning for the 21st century. The approved plans, totaling $94 million, are part of the $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act – a sweeping education technology initiative first proposed by the governor and overwhelmingly approved by voters.

"As the ongoing public health crisis has shown, now more than ever we must do everything possible to help schools modernize their infrastructure and are equipped to keep students up with their studies even when they can't be in the classroom," Cuomo said. "With this funding, we are helping schools navigate the pandemic while expanding opportunities and providing students with the skills and technology they need to succeed in the 21st century economy."

The Smart Schools review board met yesterday for the 15th time to consider investment plans submitted by school districts and special education schools. The board is composed of the director of the budget, the chancellor of the State University of New York, and the commissioner of the State Education Department.

The plans approved were submitted by 131 school districts and five special education schools. Projects include $52.2 million for classroom technology, $13.7 million for school connectivity, $24.9 million for high-tech security and $2 million for pre-kindergarten classrooms. A summary of the plans is available here.

With the Smart Schools Bond Act, school districts are investing in technology such as computer servers, interactive whiteboards, tablets, desktop and laptop computers, and high-speed broadband and wireless connectivity. This technology helps students to learn at their own pace, expands access to advanced courses and interactive curriculum, and enhances communication between parents and teachers. Investments in high-tech school security support the purchase of new equipment, such as emergency notification systems and other safety technology. Additional investments in the construction of pre-kindergarten classrooms will help ensure that students learn in modern, updated spaces.

State Budget Director Robert F. Mujica said, "Through the Smart Schools program, we are providing the tools schools need to operate modern classrooms that students can connect with no matter where they are – all the more important as we contend with the ongoing public health crisis. At the same time, new technology will enhance our school security to keep children safe when they are in the building while also positioning our students for success in the 21st century economy."

Interim State Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe said, "The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for all students to have access to devices that support virtual learning. In this round of approvals, I am pleased to see so many districts that share our dedication to ensuring education is equitable to all students, especially during challenging times. The department will continue to work closely with our partners on the SSBA board to enable districts across the state to keep pace with the rapidly evolving technological landscape."

SUNY Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer Bob Megna said, "Education leaders across all levels are developing plans for the upcoming school year to integrate distance learning when necessary to keep people safe while continuing education. Gov. Cuomo's Smart Schools program will help ensure students have the tools to succeed while successfully balancing public health and academic needs. With the pandemic's disproportionate impact on poor and minority communities, we are proud that New York is doubling down on efforts to help the students who need it most."

In 2014, Cuomo called for New York state to invest $2 billion in its schools through a Smart Schools Bond Act – an initiative that would finance educational technology and infrastructure, providing students access to the latest technology and connectivity needed to succeed and compete in the 21st century economy. New Yorkers agreed, as the voters authorized the Smart Schools Bond Act that November.

Following the proposal of the Bond Act, Cuomo established the Smart Schools commission to gather information on strategies for how schools can most effectively invest the bond funds. This advisory commission produced a final report recommending a focus on expanding robust broadband and wireless connectivity and utilizing transformative technologies. The plans approved here by the Smart Schools review board reflect many of the best practices identified by the commission.

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