Area Schools Prefer Equitable Aid To Tech Funding

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is championing the technological advancement of New York state classrooms in an effort to develop competitive and career-ready students.

As he delivered his 2014 State of the State Address on Jan. 8, Cuomo proposed a bond referendum as a means of providing schools with the funding necessary to implement technology upgrades.

“We want New York state to have the best education system in the world,” Cuomo said. “That’s our focus. We are in the midst of an education reinvention, replacing a 1950s bureaucracy with a 2020 performance organization. The next step in our journey is to reinvent our classrooms with new technology. We must transform our classrooms from the classrooms of yesterday to the classrooms of tomorrow.”

In order to accomplish this, Cuomo said he intends to seek a bond referendum for participation in the Smart Schools Initiative, through which the state can invest $2 billion in funding for the purpose of upgrading technology in schools. He said there will be strict eligibility in the use of Smart Schools Initiative funds, and districts must submit a technology plan for approval before receiving funding.

While area school administrators are approving of Cuomo’s intention to bring New York schools up to date technologically, they are questioning the approach he is taking to accomplish this goal.

“I certainly would applaud (Cuomo) for attempting to bring everyone up to a level playing field in the realm of technology,” said Tim Mains, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent.

“It’s difficult for school districts to keep up with rapidly changing technology, so I believe his effort to try and make that more even from district to district is worthwhile. I’m just not sure that his approach of bonding for it and leaving us all in hock is necessarily the best idea.”

Stephen Penhollow, superintendent of Falconer Central School, said a bond referendum would be of little help to his district.

“It’s good in theory, but it would be difficult to practice,” Penhollow said. “I think a lot of what the governor looks at in terms of bonds and competitive grants oftentimes are very difficult for smaller, rural school districts to compete for. The bond theory is a way to generate funds, but I think getting someone to purchase that bond or a bank to support it would be a difficult sell because, in the five to 10 years it would take to get that technology, much of the equipment would be obsolete.”

“If the government would support a fair and equitable distribution of aid to schools, that would be a great step. Doing that without having to go out and purchase bonds would be the best way to do that,” he added.

Kaine Kelly, Sherman Central School superintendent, echoed Penhollow’s desire to see the state commit to a more equitable distribution of aid.

“It’s great that Cuomo is talking about investing in education, and the fact that there’s talk about funding going into schools is positive,” Kelly said.

“On Sherman’s end, what would be the most helpful to us would be an equitable distribution of state aid to get that money flowing to poorer rural schools. We’re a fairly technology-progressive school, and we would welcome those technology funds, but what we really need is money to operate day-to-day and hire more teachers.”