Cuomo’s Ambitious Education Tech Plans Bring Skepticism On Funding

Despite New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s success in a pretty challenging year for others, his big plans for technology in education are yet to be embraced by a minority who express their concern as to where the funding of such programs would come from. Additionally, his plan of offering bonuses to highly rated teachers has been called to question.

Gov. Cuomo managed to make a few promises for education in his election-year State of the State Address dominated by jobs, tax cuts and economic development. Cuomo trumpeted universal pre-kindergarten and plans to funnel $2 billion to technology upgrades in classrooms and to offer bonuses for highly-rated teachers during the homestretch of an hour-long speech.

However, as expected, some were left less than impressed by those ambitious plans. Great concern was particularly drawn by the plan for a $2 billion “Smart Schools” bond referendum to put better technology in schools. The improvements could help bridge the gap between poor and wealthy schools, as Cuomo put it, as it would grant school districts more funds to build higher-tech classrooms if approved by voters.

“While a new education technology bond act is a good idea, it will not close the gap in classroom opportunities, the only thing that can begin to reverse inequality is a $1.9 billion increase in school aid,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, in a highly critical statement.

Skepticism over focusing efforts on technology was also expressed by Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, a frequent critic of the state’s implementation of the Common Core.

“Technology is not the crisis in the classroom right now,” she said.

Such a plan focusing on the districts with the highest need was the hope of State Sen. Neil Breslin.

“I’d like to see the details to make sure the emphasis is on high-needs districts,” he said.

Technology could indeed serve to close gaps of inequality in the state’s classrooms, according to others.

“In today’s world, information moves at lightning-fast pace,” said Timothy Kremer, director of the New York State School Boards Association, in a statement. “Schools must be properly equipped to handle this flow in order to effectively educate students. As described, the governor’s Smart Schools referendum could represent a major step in helping districts get up-to-speed.”

As reported by Kristen V. Brown of The Albany Times Union, in a tweet saying, “technology tools in our schools are a great equalizer for disabled kids”, 4201 Schools Association, an organization of schools for children who are deaf, blind and severely physically disabled, applauded the plan.

But many expressed concern over where the funding for those programs would come from, despite education advocates and lawmakers largely lauding Cuomo’s other plans of universal pre-k, incentives for students who choose careers in science, technology, engineering and math and bonuses for good teachers.

“Governor Cuomo has marvelous rhetoric when it comes to education, however, the reality has fallen way short of the rhetoric,” said Easton in his statement. “Nothing in his speech today suggests that he is going to finally address the inequality between rich and poor school districts.”