On Nov. 4 voters voiced their approval of the Smart Schools Bond Act, authorizing the state to borrow $2 billion for technology upgrades and expand kindergarten classroom space in schools.
According to unofficial results from the New York State Board of Elections, the ballot proposition passed with 1,807,379 votes in favor and 1,118,006 against.
Counties with the largest support for Proposition 3 were found mostly downstate, including those on Long Island and in New York City. In parts of New York City, voters in favor outweighed opposition by as much as four-to-one.
However, in some of the five boroughs, including Brooklyn and the Bronx, blank votes were almost equal to those in favor of Proposition 3, suggesting many voters don’t know how the new initiative may affect their own children.
Results also showed overwhelming support for Proposition 3 upstate in places such as Broome, Dutchess, Erie, Onondaga, Oneida, Orange, Clinton and Tompkins counties.
In Erie County Proposition 3 passed with a whopping 38,672 margin of difference.
Voters in places such as Albany, Rensselaer, Fulton, Hamilton, Saratoga, Schenectady, Washington, St. Lawrence, Schoharie, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Ontario and Montgomery counties turned down the idea while voters in Allegany, Genesee and Yates counties seemed to be on the fence. In Yates County, for example, Proposition 3 was denied by a mere six votes.
Governor Andrew Cuomo first introduced the Smart Schools initiative in his State of the State Address in January 2014.
The Smart Schools Bond Act was made a ballot question after budget bill A.086556-d/S.06356-d was approved by the Legislature this past March.
The Smart Schools Commission, enacted by Cuomo to provide expert recommendations on how students can best benefit from the funding, wrote in a report that incorporating technology into classrooms keeps students more engaged and will better prepare them for the 21st century workforce.
Each school district has already been apportioned a fraction of the $2 billion based on their existing school aid. Apportionments range from more than $700 million to less than $30,000 with New York City receiving the largest portion.
School districts will be required to submit an investment plan drafted in conjunction with teachers, parents, administrators and community stakeholders to be approved by a Smart Schools Commission before they will be able to dip into funds.
Supporters have called the initiative a step towards eliminating the “digital divide” between more affluent schools and less affluent ones.
Critics of Proposition 3, on the other hand, said it will unnecessarily burden future generations, since most technology would become obsolete by the time the debt would be paid off.
The bonds have a payback period of 30 years with a relatively low fixed interest.
Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz, D-Brooklyn, vocal supporter of Proposition 3, reacted to its passage saying, “The Smart Schools bond act will enable tomorrow’s leaders to learn in classrooms where they can develop essential skills in an economy that considers technical literacy an indispensable commodity.”
Story by Jessica Piccinini originally published in The Legislative Gazette
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