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$59.9 million for school technology upgrades through Smart Schools Bond Act


Wed, Feb 24th 2021 04:25 pm

78 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 Wednesday announced the approval of 78 Smart Schools investment plans aimed at improving school security and reimagining teaching and learning for the 21st century. The approved plans, totaling $59.9 million, are part of the $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act, an education technology initiative first proposed by the governor and approved by voters.

School districts with approved plans include Niagara Falls, Niagara Wheatfield and the City of North Tonawanda.

"Our schools are continuing to evolve as they meet the new demands brought on by the pandemic, and the Smart Schools Bond Act is providing students with the latest technology so they can stay connected no matter where their classroom is," Cuomo said. "Even as rising vaccinations and a nation-leading testing program are paving the way for all students to return to the classroom, districts continue to navigate a new reality – and with this funding, we are helping them while preparing students to succeed in the 21st century economy."

The Smart Schools Review Board met Wednesday for the 16th 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 72 school districts and two special education schools. Projects include $21.2 million for high-tech security, $16.7 million for school connectivity, $14.6 million for classroom technology, $5.3 million for pre-kindergarten classrooms, $1.1 million for the replacement of transportable classroom units and $1.1 million for nonpublic schools' classroom technology and school connectivity.

A summary of the plans is available here.

New York State Budget Director Robert F. Mujica said, "The governor proposed the $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act to bridge the digital divide. Over the past two years, this funding has been critical to providing schools with the technology that made remote learning possible when the pandemic struck. Thanks to these funds, schools across New York state have the tools they need to connect students with the classroom anywhere they are, and ongoing investments continue to support schools in their efforts to keep them connected and get students ready to work in the modern economy."

Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young Jr. said, "The pandemic has magnified the fact that New York's children and families don't have equal access to devices and broadband. This unprecedented situation has reaffirmed our dedication to ensuring that education is equitable to all students, especially during challenging times. Districts can use Smart Schools Bond Act funds to help bridge this digital divide."

State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, "Internet access is the electricity of the 1930s and ’40s; it is that crucial to everyday life and learning; and so, it is imperative that we do everything possible to ensure that New York's children have equal opportunities to connect and receive a meaningful education, even when they can't be in the classroom. I applaud the work our districts are doing with these much-needed SSBA funds to improve infrastructure for in-person and remote learning, as well as fortifying high-tech security measures and ensure that students and teachers have what they need to be successful."

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said, "The pandemic has been a sobering reminder about the inequities that continue to persist across the education system – disparities that the Smart Schools Bond Act is specifically designed to address. Today's approval of nearly $60 million for technology upgrades will provide students across more than 70 school districts with everything from tablets and computers to high-speed broadband and wireless connectivity. Today, these are the essential tools that all students need to learn, thrive, and eventually advance to college – whether they're remote learning from an apartment in New York City or resuming in-person instruction at a small school in rural upstate New York. I want to thank Gov. Cuomo for his steadfast commitment to breaking down educational barriers for all students."

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. Of the $14.6 million in classroom technology expenditures approved at the meeting, districts have allocated $8.8 million for the purchase of laptops and tablets, helping to provide students with the technology required to succeed as schools continue to respond to the ongoing pandemic and operate under remote and hybrid learning models.

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 students learn in modern, updated spaces.

In 2014, Cuomo called for New York 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.

A press release stated, “The plans approved today by the Smart Schools Review Board reflect many of the best practices identified by the commission.”

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