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$2 Billion School Bond Act Goes In Front of New York Voters in November

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: $2 Billion School Bond Act Goes In Front of New York Voters in November
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- Voters this November will decide whether the state should borrow up to $2 billion to help fund new technology in school classrooms and upgrade school buildings themselves.

"Let's invest in the future. Let's reimagine our classrooms for the next generation," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-New York, back in January at his State of the State address. "Let's have the smartest classrooms in the nation because our children deserve nothing less than the best.

For schools, approval of the $2 billion bond act could mean extra money to purchase state-of-the-art computing equipment as well as much-needed classroom additions to buildings.

"We do believe the goals behind the bond act of having new, modern technology be made available in the classroom makes great sense," said Tim Kremer, School Boards Association executive director.

The state School Boards Association isn't taking an official stance on the approval of the bond act, and by and large, there are few interest groups in Albany that have pushed for the new borrowing.

"I think there was a recognition among parents and particularly among the business community that these children were coming out of our schools and they might not be ready for the competition that awaits them in college and careers," Kremer said.

The bond proposal does have its skeptics, like EJ McMahon of the Empire Center, who notes Cuomo made the proposal as a way to shore up his education agenda in his State of the State, and questioned whether the borrowing plan was prudent given the amount of money already spent on technology and infrastructure.

"The state already has an aid formula that gives school districts some aid for classroom technology," McMahon said. "It has a huge building aid formula. The state spends over a billion dollars in cash for building aid."

There's also the matter of the technology schools will purchase with the borrowed funds.

"They're assigning useful lives to this technology. It's the equivalent of taking out a home equity loan to buy a nice laptop you found at the store," said McMahon.

Cuomo has assembled a commission to propose ways of spending the $2 billion if the bond is approved by voters. Included on the commission is the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, whose company is a vendor of education technology.

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