- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - New York voters will decide whether the state should borrow $2 billion so that schools can buy computers, connect to the Internet, install high-tech security features and build classrooms for prekindergarten students.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the Smart Schools Bond Act - Proposal 3 on the Nov. 4 ballot - during his State of the State address in January as a way to “remake our classrooms for tomorrow.”

School districts see the proposal as a way to upgrade and install technology without relying on tax increases. About 56 percent of New York’s schools have insufficient broadband capacity, including 31 schools with no broadband service at all, according to the state Broadband Program Office.

Critics, however, oppose going into debt for things like iPads, interactive white boards and laptops that have a relatively short shelf life.

“To create state debt up to the amount of $2 billion for the purchase of technology equipment that will be outdated long before the eight-year bond is repaid is not reasonable or practicable,” a statement from the Conservative Party said.

Districts would have to meet with parents, students and community leaders to decide how to spend their share of the money, which would be allocated based on the school aid formula, and get plans approved by the state before receiving funding.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Auburn School District Superintendent Constance Evelyn and Geoffrey Canada, President of Harlem Children’s Zone, have been appointed by Cuomo to an advisory Smart Schools Commission which has overseen a series of public forums since spring. Speakers said the technology was crucial for so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) instruction needed to support the state’s nanotechnology, biotechnology and energy industries.

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