The state is asking voters for permission to borrow $2 billion for computer infrastructure and other upgrades for the state’s 697 school districts.

Schools would use the money to install wireless systems, and buy laptops, tablets and computer smart boards for classrooms. Districts could also use the money to build rooms for new pre-kindergarten programs, to enhance building security and replace temporary classrooms with permanent ones.

The Cuomo administration says the devices bought with the bond money would be paid for over eight years, long after the today’s technology is obsolete. The brick and mortar projects would be bonded for 20 to 30 years.

Schools would have to hire personnel to repair and maintain the new equipment and train the staff to use it, an additional cost that would be better spent on hiring more teachers and reducing class sizes. Communities should be the ones to decide whether their tax dollars should be spent on new technology, not Albany.

The Empire Center has estimated the state’s yearly payments on the bond would be about $130 million. That’ s money that would be better spent on gradually buying equipment, rather than paying down a debt.

New York needs to take a hard look at how it funds schools and it could start by funneling some of the money from the state’s $5 billion in fines and settlement with banks into infrastructure for schools.

Who doesn’t want the best for New York’s students? But the price tag for electronic equipment that will be obsolete long before it’s paid off isn’t the best use of the taxpayers’ money. We would urge voters to vote “no” on the bond act.

© 2014 Syracuse Post-Standard

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