Among the many education-related plot developments in yesterday’s mid-term elections—all covered top-to-bottom by our good friends over at Politics K-12 and State EdWatch—was a big shot in the arm for school technology in New York state.
Voters there passed Proposal 3, aka the Smart Schools Bond Act, which authorizes the state to sell up to $2 billion in bonds for the following:
- Acquiring learning technology equipment of facilities, including interactive whiteboards, servers, and personal devices;
- Installing high-speed broadband and wireless networks;
- And installing “high-tech security features” in school buildings and on campuses.
The money can also be used to “construct, enhance, and modernize” prekindergarten program facilities and to build permanent spaces to replace trailers and other portable classrooms.
According to an Associated Press report, all 700 school districts in New York will be eligible for the funds, which are to be divvied up according to the state-aid formula. Districts will have to get state approval for their spending plans, however.
Proponents say the initiative will help level the playing field for technology access, help schools meet President Barack Obama’s goal of getting 99 percent of schools high-speed Internet connections, and support the digital learning transformation in schools.
But the measure had faced opposition from critics who contended the state’s debt burden is already too high, as well as from some public-education advocates, including Diane Ravitch, who had this to say on her blog:
I am all in favor of technology for the schools, but it should not be paid for by a bond issue, which will be repaid over many years, long after the technology has become obsolete. As we saw in Los Angeles, where the superintendent proposed to use construction bonds to buy iPads, this is a very bad idea. The main purpose of this bond issue is to provide technology for Common Core testing. Some parents are already calling it the "PARCC bond issue," with reference to the name of the Common Core test that will be delivered online ... Bond issues should be used for construction and renovation, for costs that will last over many years, even decades, not for technology, which is fast-changing and must be replaced and serviced.
Last year, my colleague Michelle Davis took a close look at the practice of school districts floating bond for technology purchases, exploring some of those isses in greater depth.
The New York bond proposal passed with 49 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial tally from the state board of elections. Thirty percent of votes went against the measure, and 21 percent of ballots were left blank.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the percentage of votes in favor of the ballot initiative.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.