New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a $2 billion bond referendum to radically upgrade technology in the state’s public schools in histo New York legislators. He also proposed a new bonus program to reward teachers rated the most effective on the state’s evaluation system.
In his Jan. 8 remarks, Gov. Cuomo, a Democrat, called on the state to pass a “Smart Schools” bond item that would provide upgrades to school technology including laptops, tablets, and high-speed broadband. Funds would be allocated for each district, which would have to submit plans for review to use the funds.
The governor also called on state lawmakers to approve universal, full-day prekindergarten in the state, expanding on last year’s push to provide full-day prekindergarten to students in high-need communities. (this issue.)
The goals of the technology initiative, the governor said, would be increased communication between parents and teachers, increased access for teacher training, and improved skills for students to enter the current labor market. Gov. Cuomo decried what he called the “great disparities” in technology between schools. While some students had advanced computers, he said, the most advanced piece of education technology others encountered was the metal detector they passed through when entering school.
“If you’re not on the information superhighway, it could leave you behind at 100 miles an hour,” he said.
The governor also called for the creation of a “Teacher Excellence Fund.” If approved, it would make teachers who are rated “highly effective” on the state evaluation system eligible for bonuses of up to $20,000 annually. Those teachers would have to work in “participating districts,” according to Gov. Cuomo’s plan.
In his speech, the governor stressed that, on average, a $20,000 bonus would equal 27 percent of an average teacher’s annual pay. This idea, he said, “incentivizes teachers who perform well.” The evaluation system judges teachers in part on student growth, an idea with a controversial history in the state.
Power in the New York state legislature is split between Democrats who control the state Assembly, and Republicans who control the Senate in a coalition with the Independent Democratic Caucus.
Gov. Cuomo is up for re-election this year. He was first elected governor in 2010.
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A version of this article appeared in the January 15, 2014 edition of Education Week as N.Y. Governor Aims to Boost School Tech.