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November 4, 2014 Ballot Language:
Proposition 3, “Smart Schools Bond Act”
The SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014, as set forth in section one of part B of chapter 56 of the laws of 2014, authorizes the sale of state bonds of up to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000) to provide access to classroom technology and high-speed internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, to add classroom space, to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space, and to install high-tech smart security features in schools. Shall the SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014 be approved?

Ballot initiative would send technology funding to every school district in the state
New York voters to decide on $2 billion ‘Smart Schools’ bond on Nov. 4

Oct. 29, 2014—When New York voters head to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 4, in addition to candidates for office, they will decide on a $2 billion bond referendum that would provide each school district with funding for new educational technology and infrastructure improvements that could also include classroom space for prekindergarten programs.

The “Smart Schools Bond Act” — or Proposition 3, for its position on the ballot — was first proposed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address in January 2014. Following its approval by the Legislature, school districts were informed of the amount of Smart Schools funding they will receive if voters approve the referendum. Guilderland would be eligible to receive up to $2,096,732 in Smart Schools funding if the ballot measure is successful.

If approved, the bond funding could be used for the purchase of classroom technology, such as interactive whiteboards and tablets; technology infrastructure, such as high-speed broad band, wireless capabilities or servers; to construct, enhance or modernize educational facilitates, either related to the state’s full-day prekindergarten initiative or to replace transportable classroom units that are being used; and to install high-tech security features in schools or on campuses.

Each school district will be required to submit a Smart Schools Investment Plan to a Smart Schools Review Board — comprised of the chancellor of the State University of New York, the state budget director and the commissioner of education — if the ballot measure is approved by voters.

This Smart Schools Review Board is also charged with issuing guidelines regarding these district investment plans, including the timeline for submissions. One requirement that is known at this point is that school districts will be required to consult with parents, teachers, community members and others when developing their Smart Schools Investment Plans.

In a question and answer piece on the governor’s website (PDF), Smart Schools funding for districts is referred to as a grant, which will be administered by the State Education Department. There is no local contribution required to access the money, and at this point there is no set deadline by which schools would need to submit their plans.

Financing the $2 billion bond
The amount each district is slated to receive is proportionate to its share of overall formula-driven state aid in 2013-14, according to a New York State United Teachers fact sheet on the referendum. For example, if a district received 1 percent the total amount of state aid the state allocated to districts in 2013-2014, it would receive 1 percent of the $2 billion Smart Schools money — or $20 million.

The governor’s Smart Schools Q and A indicates that once the review board approves a district’s plan, it is eligible to begin receiving grant funds.

Although the total of all district allocations add up to $2 billion, it’s not clear how much the state will ultimately borrow. The ballot measure asks if voters support borrowing “up to” that amount, and it’s not known if all districts would spend their entire allocation.

The state has not detailed the repayment terms or schedule for the bonds. The state’s financial plan for the enacted 2015 budget (PDF) includes $126 million for debt service related to the bond in 2017 and $156 million for 2018.

 

Some content courtesy of Capital Region BOCES School Communications Portfolio; Copyright 2014; All rights reserved. For more information or permission to use, call 518-464-3960.

 

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