N.Y. Gov. Cuomo approves more tech upgrades through Smart Schools initiative


New York is adding another $75.6 million in projects under a broad program to make schools smarter.

The money will go toward 88 Smart Schools Investment Plans that are supposed to upgrade teaching and learning practices and finance modern infrastructure, including connectivity projects.

The investments, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are part of the $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act, a sweeping eduction technology initiative that he introduced in 2014 and voters supported.

The 88 projects are in addition to the 154 the governor announced in July; those projects amounted to $103.2 million.

The plans tackle school connectivity, classroom technology, pre-K classrooms and high-tech security. Brentwood Union Free School District, in Suffolk County in Long Island, is getting the most influx of cash for updates and renovations — more than $8 million.

Cuomo said the investments will modernize classrooms across the state so that students can become more competitive in the workforce.

“These vital investments are playing a critical role in expanding educational opportunity, helping schools modernize outdated classrooms and giving students access to state-of-the-art technology to learn and grow,” he said in a statement. “This funding equips students across New York with the skills and technology they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.”

The plans were put forth by 80 school districts and seven special education schools. Projects include $30 million for classroom technology purchases, $27.4 million for school connectivity projects, $17.5 million for high-tech security projects and about $745,000 for pre-K classroom construction.

“It’s sometimes hard to imagine just how quickly and radically technology is changing our lives,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “More than ever, our students need an education that prepares them to use and master the new technologies that will solve the world’s ever-more complex problems. The funding that’s available to school districts through the Smart Schools Bond Act will help give teachers the tools they need to prepare their students for success in the world that awaits them after graduation.”

A Smart Schools Review Board composed of Elia, the director of the budget and the chancellor of the State University of New York met Monday for the seventh time to consider investment plans submitted by school districts and special education schools.

“As education prepares students for an increasingly global society, our classrooms need to keep pace with the advanced technologies we have come to expect in our daily lives,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “This latest round of Smart Schools investments will provide schools, teachers, administrators and students with modern facilities and connectivity to share the knowledge necessary to thrive in college and the workforce.”

Cuomo had assembled a Smart Schools Commission to collect data on how schools could use the bond funds most efficiently. The commission produced a report that suggested school administrators focus on expanding broadband and wireless access, and adopting effective technologies.

Reach the reporter at corinne.lestch@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @clestch and @edscoop_news.