Smart Schools Referendum Passes

On November 4, the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 was passed by the voters by a margin of 62 to 38. Later that same week, at a meeting in Saratoga Springs, Commissioner King told reporters that he did not have a timeline for the distribution of two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000) to provide access to classroom technology and high-speed internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, to add classroom space, and to expand high-quality prekindergarten programs, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space, and to install high-tech smart security features in schools. On October 9, the SAANYS government relations committee met with the governor’s office to discuss the procedures that need to be completed by school districts in order to access their Smart Schools allocation. The committee learned that necessary forms and procedures were not developed and remain unavailable as of the time of this writing (November 7). However, the governor’s representatives indicated that the funds would remain available for at least 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17.

School District Allocations:

Each school district will receive a pro-rata share of the referendum funds commensurate with their relative allocation of state aid. The projects will be fully state funded and there will be no local contribution required of the school district. Each school district currently knows its allocation, and the allocations are posted on Governor Cuomo’s website:

Uses of Smart School Funds:

Funds received through the bond act may be used for capital projects related to educational technology equipment, including but not limited to, interactive whiteboards; computer servers; tablet, desktop and laptop computers; high-speed broadband or wireless internet connectivity for schools and communities; capital projects to construct, enhance, or modernize educational facilities to accommodate prekindergarten programs and provide instructional space to replace transportable classroom units; and capital projects to install high-tech security features in school buildings and on campuses.

Requirements to Receive a Smart School Grant

In order to receive a Smart Schools Grant, each school district must complete a Smart School Investment Plan describing how the bond act funds would be used. The format/content of the required investment plan is not yet available.

The investment plan is required to be developed in consultation with parents, teachers, students, community members, and other stakeholders. Currently, there is no definition or guidance to clearly depict what is meant by “consultation.”

Requirements are in place to permit nonpublic students limited access to technology through this program, beginning in 2014-15. Upon request, students enrolled in nonpublic schools must be provided access, at no charge, to Smart Schools classroom technology. The loan procedures are expected to be similar to those that are currently in place for loaning instructional computer hardware to nonpublic students. The extent to which nonpublic students may access technology is also capped and may not exceed $250 multiplied by the nonpublic school enrollment.

Finally, officials of the State Education Department have indicated that charter schools may also access Smart Schools funding through school districts. The formula and procedure for this sub-distribution is currently unavailable.

Each school district’s investment plan must be reviewed and approved by the three-member Smart Schools Review Board:

  • John King, Jr. –  Commissioner of Education
  • Robert Megna –  State Budget Director
  • Nancy Zimpher –  Chancellor of the State University of New York

More specific information regarding permissible uses of the funds is needed by school districts for development of investment plans. For example, a determination has not been reached regarding the use of such funds to pay for current and in-progress projects. (For this reason, if your school district has such projects, you should identify, record, and track such costs.) Clarification is also needed regarding any “strings” that may be attached to such funds, and standards that must be addressed. For example, Governor Cuomo’s Smart Schools Commission notes that “President Obama’s ConnectED initiative aims for schools to gain access to broadband speeds of at least 100 Mbps along with a high-speed wireless network in every building.”

For more information on the Smart Schools Bond Act contact James Viola, director of government relations, by e-mailing