Governor Kathy Hochul announced the approval of 51 Smart Schools Investment Plans focused on reimagining education in an evolving age and boosting school security. The approved plans, totaling $24.8 million, are part of the $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act, a sweeping education technology program.
“In an era of remote learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we increase our focus and vigilance on public safety, this state funding is more timely and critical than ever,” Governor Hochul said. “These actions by the Smart Schools Review Board help ensure that students have the tools and technology they need for safe and effective learning, whether in schools or at home.”
The Smart Schools Review Board met yesterday for the 18th 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 by the Board were submitted by 45 school districts and two special education schools. Projects include $14.5 million for classroom technology, $7.8 million for high-tech security, and $2.5 million for school connectivity. A summary of the plans is available here.
New technology purchases supported by the Smart Schools Bond Act include computer servers, interactive whiteboards, tablets, desktop and laptop computers, and high-speed broadband and wireless connectivity. These tools empower students to individualize their learning, extend opportunities for interactive experiences both inside and outside the classroom, and promote parent-teacher communication. These purchases are particularly vital in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping students connect and succeed under multiple learning models including remote learning when necessary.
High-tech security tools supported by the Smart Schools Bond Act include entry control systems, video systems, and emergency classroom notification systems. These upgrades are critical as the State and local partners work to bolster the safety of all public spaces.
Budget Director Robert F. Mujica, Jr. said, “The Smart Schools Bond Act is a valuable resource for New York schools, helping with purchases for new technology, connectivity and security upgrades which are all more timely than ever. As technology becomes more central to learning, and as we continue to improve the security of our public spaces, this funding will go a long way in keeping our schools up to date.”
Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said, “The Smart Schools program allows us to provide technology to engage students in learning regardless of modality while also enhancing security systems to keep them safe within their school communities. These investments are vital in our commitment to ensuring that every student in our state has access to a high-quality education.”
State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, “The pandemic laid bare the digital divide in our state, and as we continue to recover from the pandemic, we are seeing an increase in violence amongst young people. This latest round of Smart Schools funding prioritizes these two critical areas by expanding the number of devices for students and providing money for school security infrastructure. When our students are safe and able to engage in meaningful learning, we begin to see their true potential.”
SUNY Interim Chancellor Deborah F. Stanley said, “New York State is the premier leader in education, and the Smart Schools Bond Act is further evidence that we invest in the potential of our young people, as the future workers and leaders of our state. By investing in interactive white boards, tablets, computers and high speed internet, we are signaling that New Yorkers deserve the best resources to help them learn and achieve their educational goals. We thank the Governor for her dedication to the accessibility of learning, no matter the level of education, and we look forward to welcoming these young learners one day to our SUNY schools.”
In 2014, New York State invested $2 billion in its schools through a Smart Schools Bond Act—an initiative to 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, the Smart Schools Commission was established to gather information on strategies for how schools can most effectively invest the bond funds. This advisory commission recommended a focus on expanding robust broadband and wireless connectivity and utilizing transformative technologies. The plans approved yesterday by the Smart Schools Review Board reflect many of the best practices identified by the Commission.