Cuomo Pushes for More Technology in New York Schools

The announcement of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Smart Schools Commission symposium, the second of its kind, provided an opportunity for technology and education experts to “explore innovative, successful approaches to school and community connectivity and technology-enabled education practices”.

Governor Cuomo said, “Folding technology into our schools is crucial in advancing the achievement of New York State’s students, and by actively engaging with education and technology experts, the Smart Schools Commission is helping to create 21st Century classrooms in our schools.”

The focus of this gathering was the need for better broadband access to public schools, especially in rural areas of the state; how national research can help in removing barriers to promoting digital learning; accessible connectivity high-quality STEM education, which will also assist in the state’s expanding nanotechnology, biotechnology, and energy industries.

According to Kevin Jolly of Buffalo’s TWC News, improvement of school’s broadband accessibility will cost around $2 billion.

“This is the effort the governor started with his announcement last January to ask for a $2 billion bond act to basically create a whole surge of investment technologies for public schools across New York State,” said Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy (D-New York).

“This is a wonderful initiative, especially for a small rural school district,” said Danielle O’Conner, superintendent of the Frewsberg Central School District.

If the referendum passes, it will also be used to assist in the support of full-day pre-kindergarten.

New York voters in November will be asked to vote “yes” to this $2 billion bond act which will be used to fund technology upgrades in schools statewide.  Gov. Cuomo first proposed this Smart Schools initiative option in his 2014 State of the State address, says reporter Chris Caya, writing for NPR station WBFO.  If it is approved, the state will get advice on how it should be used by a panel of technology and education experts.

“We’re really thrilled to see the incredible momentum behind Smart Schools. Because this funding will give New York a unique and unprecedented opportunity to invest in a broadband program that can close the connectivity gap, for once and for all, in every school statewide,” Tiffany Zhou of the Education SuperHighway said.

The Legislative Gazette, in an article written by Roger Hannigan Gilson, reports that Cuomo has approved $10 million in funding to expand the engineering program at SUNY New Paltz, as part of the SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program (focusing on job creation). The funding will pay for a 20,000 square-foot building which will house engineering equipment to provide a foundation for the university’s engineering program and companies partnered with New Paltz and its 3D printing program. It is being called an”engineering innovation hub”.

In this round of grants, $55 million worth of funding has been given to five SUNY institutions, along with $6 million to Broome Community College to expand its entrepreneurship programs, and $5.7 million to Erie County Community College to establish a new Associate of Applied Science Degree in Nanotechnology.

Not everyone is supporting the governor’s education initiatives.  Ted Thompson of Niskayuna wrote a letter to the editor of The Daily Gazette and explained why.  He starts out by reminding readers that in 2008, hundreds of millions were cut from public education because of the recession. Only a small percentage of this money has been restored, he writes.  A recent settlement with local banks awarded large settlements to the state, and there is no sign that any of that money is being used to close the funding gap in education, according to Thompson.

Thompson continues by saying that he believes the governor prefers charter schools over public schools ; that the governor has made casinos a key element in school funding, even though public gambling is an industry that has reached its peak; and that the Democratic Committee of New York denied Zephyr Teachout a line in the primary ballot, among many other grievances. These mistakes make Thompson think that Cuomo is not a friend of education.

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