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Smart Schools Bond Act Draws Little Enthusiasm

As the election nears, the Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA) does not appear to be a crowds’ favorite. The Smart Schools Bonds Act, which was first introduced in the Governor Cuomo’s State Address in 2014, is a two billion dollar loan planned to provide a variety of improvements for public schools. These improvements include pre-k expansion, high-speed Internet, replacement of instructional trailers for classroom spacing and technology advances for all students.

President and founder of Empire Center for Public Policy EJ McMahon summarized the lack of enthusiasm. “There was no organized effort by any education group to get something like this.”

WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom host Susan Arbetter spoke with McMahon about his views on the Smart Schools Bond Act. “This is one of the maybe the most peculiar, poorly conceived bond acts that we’ve ever seen on the ballot in New York and that is something,” McMahon said.

Governor Cuomo said that the Smart Schools Bond Act “will build our schools and classrooms for the 21st Century to ensure that our students graduate with the skills they need to thrive in the economy of today and tomorrow.”

But even Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents Merryl Tisch voiced concerns with the new act on The Capitol Pressroom. “My worry is that, the really in-depth school districts will make wise investments,” Tisch said, “and the school districts that are struggling will not be that wise. I have gone into many school buildings across this state and when you go into the basement of the school you see boxes and boxes of unused computers. It could drive you crazy.”

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) is one group that supports the act but with “some questions and concerns.” NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn said, “it will help rural and high-needs districts buy computers, smart boards, etc. and invest in high-speed Internet.”

Shaun Marie, executive director of the Conservative Party of NYS disagrees that the act will do much to help poor districts.

“You know what’s going to help poor schools?” Marie told Artbetter. “Parent involvement. Parental involvement is going to be the only thing that is going to really help these students. If the parents are there, they can go to the library, there are computers there; they can do things. But you have to have a parent involved and no bond in this world is going to make them involved in their school unless it’s already in their hearts to do it,” Marie said.

New Yorkers can vote on the Smart Schools Bond Act, ballot amendment three, on Tuesday Nov. 4. Listen to Susan Arbetter’s interviews with EJ McMahon, Merryl Tisch and Shaun Marie at www.wcny.org/radio/capitolpressroom

Article written by Pareese Hankerson. 

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