What is the Smart Schools Bond Act?
New York’s Smart Schools Bond Act was approved by voters in November 2014. The $2 billion bond act is intended to provide school districts with funding for new educational technology and infrastructure improvements to enhance learning opportunities for all students across the state.
According to the New York Smart Schools Commission Report, released in October 2014, the bond act’s primary focus is to meet the demand for expanded online learning and help even the technological playing field by leveraging technology resources for 21st-century students and teachers.
As its name implies, the Smart Schools Bond Act requires schools to make strategic decisions regarding upgrades. To be eligible for funding, each school district is required to:
- Draft a Smart Schools Improvement Plan linked to a long-range educational technology plan;
- Involve the community in its planning; and
- Have the Smart Schools plan approved by the New York State Education Department as part of a detailed review process.
What can SSBA funds be used for?
The purpose of the SSBA is to improve learning and opportunity for public and nonpublic schools students by funding capital projects to:
- Install high-speed broadband or wireless internet connectivity for schools and communities;
- Acquire learning technology equipment or facilities, including but not limited to interactive whiteboards, computer servers and desktop, laptop or tablet computers;
- Construct, enhance and modernize educational facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and to provide instructional space to replace classroom trailers; and/or
- Install high-tech security features in school buildings and on school campuses, including but not limited to video surveillance, emergency notification systems and physical access controls.
How much money will Goshen receive?
Goshen will receive $1,343,184 under the Smart Schools Bond Act. The amount of money a school district can receive is determined proportionally in a formula created by the State Education Department.
How will Goshen use its Smart Schools funding?
Goshen will use its approximately $1.34 million in Smart Schools funding to offset the cost of improving high speed broadband and wireless connectivity in its four schools and installing a VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone system. The total cost of these projects is approximately $4.2 million.
These projects were approved by district residents in February 2017 as part of the $30.48 million capital improvement project.
When will Goshen receive its Smart Schools funding?
Smart Schools projects in each school district will develop at an individual pace. The State Education Department, which is charged with administering the program, has created a detailed, multi-step application process for districts that want to access funds. This includes capital planning at the local level for any infrastructure upgrades, review of a district’s Instructional Technology Plan for districts planning to purchase devices or equipment for classroom use, and creation and approval of the Smart Schools Investment Plan, which must be in place before any project is initiated. How long approval will take for individual projects is unknown; however, Smart Schools bond funds never expire and remain available until a district has used its entire allocation.
Will Smart Schools projects affect the overall school district budget or the taxes I pay?
Districts are required to purchase equipment first before being reimbursed under Smart Schools. As such, the expenditures for purchases must be included in a district’s annual budget—increasing spending in the year that the purchases are made and potentially affecting school tax rates. The speed with which the State Education Department processes a claim for reimbursement is a factor in determining whether that claim is paid in the same fiscal year or in a future year. If a district does not receive reimbursement in the same fiscal year, the district must plan to use other revenue to balance the costs of Smart Schools purchases. There will also be budget and tax implications associated with the costs of professional development, training and technical support or other expenses associated with maximizing integration of new technology.